The five most promising presidential candidates in the TV debate: Could have been a show, but was unfortunately dull.
French right-wing populist Marine Le Pen and conservative contender Francois Fillon Photo: dpa
"The Revolution will not be televised," the American poet Gil Scott-Heron once sang. On Monday evening, the French presidential candidates demonstrated just how right he was. French politicians like to use radical slogans in their election campaigns, but the first televised meeting of the five most promising presidential candidates turned out to be a pretty lame round of discussions.
The political show lasted until well after midnight. The viewers’ attention was stretched beyond measure. What had been billed as a passionate battle of words turned out to be a poorly choreographed and therefore tedious series of attritional battles with a few skirmishes that were not intended to hurt any of the opponents.
The private broadcaster TF1, which wanted this debate to be exclusive at all costs, must also be accused of having violated the basic rule of equal treatment of all candidates. Only five out of a total of eleven were admitted. The criterion for invitation to this VIP electoral club was the poll ratings. Of course, it is true that some of the excluded candidates might not even get one percent, and probably a fruitful debate among eleven would have been even more impossible. But to give preference to five out of eleven is simply undemocratic.
The day after, the French media are content with a few verbal confrontations. Marine Le Pen was attacked for the foreseeable consequences of her desired exit from the EU. As expected, however, the target of attacks and insinuations was the favorite Emmanuel Macron, who was accused by his Socialist rival Benoît Hamon of having been a banker in the past. Francois Fillon, on the other hand, with his "Penelopegate," was almost shamefully spared. Only the leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon refused to be lumped together with the others, demanding "reward for the virtuous, atonement for the guilty.
For millions of voters who, despite everything, sat in front of the TV, perhaps even waiting for a reason to hope in politics, this low-level marathon debate was, at best, a failed reality show. More than half of eligible voters still don’t know whether to vote and for whom.