Sensing that things might get out of hand, the journalists chairing the debate stressed the need for “Republican courtesy.” That injunction was blown apartby Jim Wolfreys / April 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
The French presidential election debate held on 4th April was unprecedented: never before have all candidates for the post shared a platform. The five frontrunners were joined by two Trotskyists and four maverick right-wingers, including veteran conspiracy theorist Jacques Cheminade, whose programme includes plans to industrialise the moon.
The previous debate of this extraordinary campaign, in March, involved only the five main contenders. It had confirmed the basic dynamic of the campaign so far. Heading the field are two apparent “outsiders,” extreme right-winger Marine Le Pen and technocratic apostle of the French “third way,” Emmanuel Macron. The candidates of the two major parties, Socialist Benoît Hamon and Les Républicains’ François Fillon, are in trouble. Hamon has been fatally damaged by defections to Macron. Fillon, perhaps the most obstinate candidate in electoral history, is persistently undermined by corruption allegations. The winner of the March debate proved to be radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose authority and grasp of detail triggered a dynamic which has seen him begin to challenge Fillon for third place.
The tone for the 4th April debate was set before it even got underway. Factory worker Philippe Poutou of the New Anti-Capitalist Party refused to take part in the group photo. Sensing that things might get out of hand, the journalists chairing the debate stressed the need for “Republican courtesy,” an injunction that Poutou was to blow apart. Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt he spoke with nonchalant truculence, addressing Fillon and Le Pen by their surnames. Fillon was derided for preaching the need for austerity while his hands were “in the till taking public money.” Turning to Le Pen, Poutou ridiculed her “anti-system” credentials. The system had granted her parliamentary immunity in regards to an investigation into allegations of misusing EU funds. As Le Pen tried to interject, Poutou’s quick-fire response left her speechless: “When we’re summoned by the police, we don’t have workers’ immunity.” The barb broke the audience’s vow of silence and brought the evening’s only moment of applause, briefly puncturing the illusion that Le Pen could somehow represent the concerns of working people.
Le Pen did not have a good night. Attacked from the left…