Presidential debate in France: One against Putin, two against EU

Author : Nadia Koval

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia were mentioned rather indirectly, and, in general, debate brought more vivid emotion than programmatic clarity
15:00, 7 April 2017

Read the original text at

Le Parisien

April 4, second presidential debate were held in France, which set a national record for the number of participants.

The five leading candidates with current rating higher than 10% were joined by another six, varying degrees of marginality. Their total presidential rating is not exceeding 6%, and the political views different from the radical left to ultra right, up to an immediate exit from the EU. Discussion between 11 candidates appeared quite chaotic. Each candidate talked about his challenges, and preferably, about domestic issues.

They have touched some theses important for Ukraine.

Le Pen announced about civilizational importance of elections in France, Fillon swore in 10 years to make France the most powerful country in Europe, and Amon - the only candidate - from the start has pledged to fight against ruthless Putin's Russia.

Thus, it does not a slip. This is the first conclusion of the debate in Paris.

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Benoit Amon, the candidate of the Socialist Party, who is not even supported by the majority of his own party, is the only candidate who has consistently and clearly condemns Putin's aggression in Ukraine. A week ago exactly this position was one of the factors shred by the other radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He does not hide his sympathy for the current Russian leadership.

Amon underlined he wants to be president in order to "fight with Putin and fight with Trump."

Other members of the debate had fundamentally different position.

Most of them has omitted the Russian theme. And those who remembered it, had openly pro-Russian views (Fillon once again stressed the importance of cooperation with Russia for conquering "Islamist totalitarianism") and vague references to common terrorist threat to France and Russia in connection with the attack in Saint- St. Petersburg (this argument was voiced by Macron).

Second, the political debate has shown flexibility of Marine Le Pen on her way to the cherished presidency.

Related: Putin's French far-right friend

In February she put Frexit and exit from the euro zone among the first requirements of the election rhetoric, now - obviously not to scare away some voters – she slightly softened her position.

Le Pen promises to negotiate with the EU to change the fundamental agreements and to ask the opinion of the French concerning EU membership in a referendum. Familiar scheme, right?

During the debate, François Asselin has accused Le Pen in refusing from her own program and took himself to prove the need of Frexit, deftly juggling articles and quotations from European treaties and demanding to immediately follow the example of "the wise British" and write a farewell letter to Donald Tusk.

However, currently this position does not help Asselin - his approval rating remains at the level of statistical error.

Thirdly, the debate proved that political morality and fighting corruption are relevant topics in France, just like in Ukraine.

Star of the evening in this context was the Trotskyite and representative trade unions Philippe Poutou.

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First he blamed Fillon that with one hand he defends the policy of austerity, while with the other he takes away money from the state treasury. And then said the same thing concerning Marine Le Pen with the only difference that the treasury was European, "National Front calls itself anti-systemic, but it protects itself by laws system using parliamentary immunity."

"When the police call us, then we go to the police office, as there is no working immunity!" Poutou finished his speech with applause by the audience.

That debates may be the last ones in the election race in France, as part of the leading candidates refused to participate in the third round, which is intended to April 20, just few days before the first round.

Time limit for performing candidate’s person was 1.5 min. This forced smaller candidates to “tongue-twist” as much information about themselves as they could, in a raised voice. The main contenders focused on creating a visual image of presidentielle, speaking relatively calmly and rhythmically seriously.

Related: France warns Russia not to interfere in Presidential elections

First of all, the participants discussed three issues: security and counter-terrorism, return to morality in political life, as well as jobs for the French. After the last question candidates had to tell about their attitude to the EU (most contestants, except Macron, it appeared generally skeptical).

As you can see, Ukraine and Russia, topics that are very important to us, were mentioned rather indirectly. Summarizing, we can say that the debate on April 4 brought more vivid emotion than programmatic clarity, especially on foreign policy of the candidates.

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