Over the last few weeks, President Emmanuel Macron’s tour around France and his speeches have been considered campaign events by some in French politics. But the government assures that Macron is doing his job, in a polemic that may well escalate in the run up to the elections.
The polemic over the campaign for April’s presidential elections has reached the media arena, following Macron’s promoted interview last week, considered an attack on “democratic fair play” by his rivals.
The content of his appearance on the TF1 and LCI channels seems irrelevant at the moment, in the face of the protests prompted by the two-hour programme, in which the president reviewed his five years in office. The programme aired four months in advance of the nation going to the polls in an election in which Macron is the favourite, although he did not formally declare his candidacy.
One of the most irate reactions came from Valerie Pecresse, the conservative candidate whose rise in the opinion polls has been so meteoric that in the most recent she appears to be emerging as Macron’s rival in the coming ballot.
“We can’t have a president-candidate who has television channels open up for him whenever he wants it and is campaigning for hours on end, while his opponents get five minutes on a panel to respond to him. This is not my conception of democracy,” she said in complaint.
Pecresse complained to the CSA, the public media regulator, asking that equality of speaking time for all candidates be restored.
Sources close to the traditional, right-wing candidate, who was chosen by Les Republicans (LR) on 4 December, took to social media to demand that the CSA deduct the time given to Macron that evening from his campaign quota.
Another source attributed the president’s appearance to “his obsession” with the rise of Pecresse.
According to analysts, following her nomination by the LR party, the 54-year-old former minister has become a strong contender to reach the Elysee Palace, and is even capable of beating Macron in the second round, which will also take place in April.
They remind us that a rerun of the 2017 ballot against far-right candidate Marine le Pen would be much more comfortable for the head of state, as it would present the real possibility of a new “republican front” again rising up to stop the extreme-right candidate taking power.
On the left, La France Insoumise (Unbowed France – LFI) leader Jean-Luc Melenchon denounced the interview, stating, “that evening the President of the Republic will use a totally unprecedented format to address the French people.”
We are seeing a new level of the limit of use of the presidency for electoral purposes, he emphasised.
LFI recalled that it had petitioned the CSA last month after a televised speech by Macron, and that it was grateful that the TF1 channel responded to the claims by offering the other candidates the opportunity to respond.
However, the party rejected the idea that Melenchon or another of its representatives would use this space to respond, arguing that they did not accept the “simple role of commentators on the words of a presidential monarchy.” (PL)