Our columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté is currently staying in France, from where he observes French news from a Quebec perspective.
Less than a hundred days before the presidential election, France is heating up. The debates are multiplying and the polls are often contradictory. Emmanuel Macron dominates the race. He is a brilliant political strategist. However, the twists and turns of the health crisis are beginning to weaken it.
But if Emmanuel Macron clearly dominates the race, it is not clear who he will face in the second round.
There is a good chance that it will be Marine Le Pen, as in 2017. The populist candidate, from the National Rally, whom many believed to be buried for good, has shown real resilience. She is in her third presidential election. She knows her job. And she’s less scary than before, as if we were more interested in her first name than in her last name. Its great advantage: the massive support of popular circles.
There is also a good chance that it is Valérie Pécresse. The candidate of the classic right, of the Les Républicains party, has managed to maintain the unity of her party, despite having gone through real ideological contradictions. A nod to Margaret Thatcher, she presents herself as the “lady of doing”. Beyond words, she would be a woman of action. If she gets through the first round, she can beat Emmanuel Macron, even if, ideologically, she looks like him.
Éric Zemmour remains in the race, even if he has lost his momentum of last fall, when he took everything in his path. The one who now leads the Reconquest party imposed his themes on the campaign and forced all the right-wing candidates to speak like him. However, he is the target of a systematic smear campaign that weakens him. He nevertheless manages to arouse major rallies from the two other right-wing parties.
On the left, things are more complicated. In a word, it is very divided.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of insubordinate France, the party of the radical left, is doing well, he is rising. He is an exceptional orator with a colorful vocabulary, an old-fashioned tribune, who knows how to go beyond short-term political calculations. He polarizes a lot, and his conversion to multiculturalism has distanced him from the secular left.
But his candidacy is parasitized by his rivals.
Christiane Taubira has just started. She presents herself as a prophetic figure. It carries a multiculturalist discourse. Beyond his narrow base of followers, his candidacy does not rise.
Yannick Jadot is the green candidate. He was supposed to represent government environmentalism. He seems absent.
As for Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and candidate of the Socialist Party, she is leading her party to ruin.
Big surprise of the campaign: Fabien Roussel, the candidate of the Communist Party. Supporter of the economic left and defender of French traditions, he speaks not only to left-wing activists, but to the people as well. He impresses and, without breaking into the polls, he obtains a real success of esteem. There is an antiwoke left in France, and it is communist!
A debate between politicians and intellectuals?
I have already noted it, but I cannot prevent myself from coming back to it: the French people are a political people. For Quebecers, the policy is globally pragmatic. Politicians do not pretend to have a grand vision of society but concrete solutions to everyday problems. In France, a politician must be able to debate with a high-level intellectual, to discuss with him, and to convey a vision of the world. A challenge to our politicians?
The morning interview plays a central role in French public life. Tight, fifteen minutes, it sets the tone for the day. It happens to be a political interview. That’s the same most of the time. But it happens that the morning interviewer receives a great intellectual, a business leader, a scientist, a figure of the clergy, an author, and we could multiply the examples. This gives every time a real good radio moment. A tradition to import to us?
Out of the pandemic?
Many present the Omicron variant almost as the best news since the start of the pandemic, apart from vaccines, of course. Very contagious but not very dangerous, it would make it possible to achieve collective immunity. From now on, we are talking about the lifting of sanitary measures. In Britain, they are almost there. In France, we want to go gradually while introducing a vaccine passport. I summarize the state of mind of many: one day it will be necessary to decide mentally and politically to get out of the pandemic.