Eleven candidates woo French voters

All eleven presidential candidates faced each other in the latest TV debate in France. In addition to the frontrunners in the polls Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the candidates of the left, Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the conservative candidate François Fillon, six others introduced themselves. Who can govern France?

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Le Monde (FR) /

Patriots should put their faith in Europe

Ten of the eleven candidates in the French presidential elections - all except Macron - are anti-European, writes Le Monde in dismay:

“Trumputinism is menacing Europe with a new Yalta, the Russian-American pact that divided Europe for forty years. The two presidents are trying to create a new 'German question': Putin by destabilising the countries of Eastern Europe and by infiltrating France's nationalist minds; Trump by trying to destroy the German economic model based on openness. And the anti-European candidates have fallen headlong into the trap: on economic issues they resemble Trump; regarding society and foreign policy they take after Putin. Above all, however, they're anti-German, as if it would make France stronger and more prosperous to crawl back into its shell. That's just the opposite of what it should be doing, namely deepening its ties with Germany, which geography and history continue to place at our side. ... The true patriot, the defender of the nation and its values, is the European.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Absurd bickering highlights France's plight

The three-and-a-half-hour televised debate was as confused and disoriented as the country itself, Le Figaro sighs:

“Whoever moves into the Elysée Palace, the country they govern will be so divided that they will have precious little room to manoeuvre. ... The profound moral crisis France is going through has created millions of protesters calling for anything and everything, in any order they please. Having failed to reform itself, our country must now observe its own decline, flagging under the weight of an increasingly unbearable debt burden and losing itself in increasingly absurd disputes. Were the French entertained by this interminable conversation? That would be the most worrying thing.”

Libération (FR) /

Debate should be a warning to winner

François Hollande's successor will have to take into account the anger expressed in the debate, Libération believes:

“Faced with the vehemence of the 'minor' candidates and Marine Le Pen, the more civilised discourse of the representatives of the right, the centre and the left often paled in comparison. Nevertheless they can use this to their advantage by contrasting the rage vented on Tuesday night to their constructive solutions. The prudence of many voters will perhaps prove them right. But whichever candidate wins in the end, he or she will have to bear in mind this unprecedented evening when the spirit of revolt found awkward, confused and contradictory expression in a way that was nonetheless representative of a state of mind: that of a worried, extremely on-edge nation that has had enough of reasonable solutions.”

Slate (FR) /

Hamon should withdraw his candidacy

Slate explains how Benoît Hamon could become a hero of the left:

“It would be enough for him to acknowledge the uselessness of his candidacy and triumph by withdrawing. … He should withdraw and help Mélenchon to bring their joint endeavour to as successful a conclusion as possible. … After years under Hollande's leadership the Socialist party is divided, lacks charisma, has no vision and no soul. It can gain new vitality by renouncing power for a while. The Socialists who have already submitted to Macron or are about to do so are following a certain logic. And even the party's fiercest hardliners should follow this example and submit to others - or rather to one individual. They should go to Mélenchon's next rally, step on stage and hug him, offer him their support, preserve the dignity of socialism and, by submitting to their fate, dare to make a new beginning.”

tagesschau.de (DE) /

Candidates' egos stand in reason's way

The trench warfare between Hamon and Mélenchon is an indica sign of the weakness of the French left, tagesschau.de believes:

“The Socialist Hamon is now trailing the candidate of the far left, Mélenchon, by five points in the polls. And he is fifteen points behind frontrunner Macron. The tragic thing from the perspective of the French left is that the positions of the two squabblers Hamon and Mélenchon are very similar on numerous points. They don't deny it, either. Together they would garner around 25 percent, giving them a fair chance of making it into the second round. If they joined forces, that is. As things stand, however, any rapprochement is becoming increasingly unlikely - and the chances of a left-wing government along with it - mainly because of their egos. The Socialist Party threatens to plunge into chaos.”

Blog David McWilliams (IE) /

Young people could help Le Pen win

If the head of the National Front is able to motivate young voters she may emerge victorious, economist and blogger David McWilliams comments:

“The National Front is by far the most popular in France with those in the 18-24 age bracket. The latest polls show it just shy of 40pc among the youth. ... This is extremely interesting and is quite similar to the Scottish Independence movement, where the youth are much more pro-independence, while older voters in Scotland are unionists. In England it is the opposite: the young want to stay in the EU and the old want to leave. In France, the youth are overwhelmingly nationalist, nativist, anti-EU and anti-foreign. If Ms Le Pen can get the youth vote out, she will dramatically increase her chances of winning.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Will Macron remain just a dreamer?

According to the polls, Emmanuel Macron stands to become the next French president. Ilta Sanomat doesn't see this as grounds for euphoria:

“Even if Macron wins, France's problems won't be solved. Macron, who takes his topics from both left and right, makes the case for economic reforms. But not even France's powerful president can implement them on his own. The French parliament will be elected in June. Will Macron get the support he needs for his projects or will he remain just a dreamer? Civil rights movements don't tend to be very stable. … The French voters are moody, rebellious and stubborn. Even if Macron makes it into the Élysée Palace, his popularity could disappear as quickly as it came. Then things will get even more messy in French politics and the country will lose its leadership.”

More opinions

Le Quotidien (LU) / 30 March 2017
  United left would change everything (in French)