Hollande outshone on right and left in French TV presidential debate
Protectionism was a recurring theme among many issues, as five of the ten candidates were questioned on French television on Wednesday night (the remaining five tonight) with less than 2 weeks before the first round.
François Hollande (Socialist)
With financial markets on edge amid fears about Spain’s public finances, and warnings from Sarkozy that a Hollande victory would “trigger a massive crisis of confidence” among investors, Hollande hit back last night.
The man who had already famously said that the world of finance is his enemy, suggested that the role of a French president was to “dominate the markets”.
“I am not the one who lost the triple A rating, I am not the one who let public debt increase by 600 000 billion euros”, he declared. “And now he comes to tell us that it could be even worse if someone else was in charge? Well no it couldn’t.”
The strategy for frontrunner François Hollande is to avoid gaffes. Although most polls now show him coming just behind incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round, he is expected to win the second round by a margin of between 6 and 12 per cent.
Eva Joly (Europe Ecologie Les Verts)
Green candidate Eva Joly has had a bumpy campaign, including a serious wobble, when she disappeared from public view for several days, following her party’s nuclear pact with the Socialists, signed by her team who, she felt, had conceded too much.
She was also briefly hospitalised earlier this month after a fall while leaving a Paris cinema.
She’s a former investigating magistrate, especially well-known for the Elf affair, where she forged her reputation, exposing corruption in high places.
But although she is reportedly dogged and uncompromising, her style and campaign have been low-key. Her very particular red, sometimes green spectacles and distinct Norwegian accent, lend her colour, but many in her own political group have hinted that they picked the wrong candidate.
“If you want France to abandon nuclear energy, put health at the centre of things, then vote for me” she said on TV yesterday.
She also backs the legalisation of cannabis and some relaxation of France’s laws on public servants wearing religious headgear.
Marine Le Pen (Front National)
Currently in third place in the polls. Marine Le Pen is a lawyer and a forceful debater, with a straight-talking style which works well on TV. She is confident that she is in phase with what she sees as a national swing to the right, particularly among the young, in difficult economic times.
She declared last night that “If I had been in power 25 years ago Mohamed Merah [the French Djihadist of Algerian parentage, who killed 3 children, a Rabbi and 3 soldiers in South western France last month] would never have been French”.
Wants France out of the Euro, brandishing a lateral-thinking puzzle scribbled on paper last night, she said that it was time, on the economy, to “think outside the box”.
Says “recidivist” abortions, where someone seeks repeated abortions, should not be paid for by the French health service.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la République)
Former member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP political grouping, now a vehement euro-sceptic.
Wants France out of the Eurozone “to get out of this debt trap”…”the euro is a terrible handicap”…”it is a wound for the economy”
Fiercely protectionist: “We will save France by manufacturing in France, protecting France from the outside and by rescuing the state-school system.”, he said last night.
Claims to be the real independent alternative to “unelected people who stuff themselves with money, bankers, the financial markets,” or “the little political milieu”
Refuses to advise his supporters to back former UMP ally Nicolas Sarkozy in second round.
Philippe Poutou (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste)
Visibly uncomfortable with publicity and exposure at the start of his campaign, now relaxing.
Aims not to win, but to revive the class war amongst workers. He acknowledges that his ideas are unrealistic.
“No country in the world resembles the society we would like to create. The closest thing is the Commune de Paris, where people organised a little society for 70 days, but it finished badly, they were massacred.” he said last night.
Insists radical solutions (expropriating wealth, a European minimum wage) are necessary to “deal with a system which is heading towards catastrophe and social suffering for millions of people.
Admitted last night that he found campaigning lonely and preferred “activism with his mates” such as when he invaded managers’ offices and held them captive win his combat against the closure of the Ford plant in Southwestern France where he works.