The Times, on the French Presidential Debate

The debate also included the three other main contenders — the Socialist Benoît Hamon, the Republicans’ François Fillon, and the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon — but it was the fight between Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen that riveted attention.

Here are my initial reactions from this debate…

The Candidates:

  • Marine Le Pen (Far Right | Front National) — criticizing every single topic of discussion, without providing a single solution. Attacked on all sides, because her ideas are incoherent in any way, shape, or form — and because all she tried to do was trying to make viewers/supporters angry or scared — the usual racist/populist far-right tactics.
  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Far Left | La France Insoumise) — Master Troll of the night, he made a lot of people laugh/smile (myself included) with the way he spoke, similarly to how Trump was seen as fun to listen to during the first G.O.P. debate. However, his program and knowledge of Foreign Affairs and Economy is severely limited.
  • Benoit Hamon (Left of the Left | Parti Socialiste) — Fairly discreet all night, mostly pushed his Universal Basic Income ideas —which I personally think is way too ahead of its time, right now. He was in a position where he attempted to sway potential voters who'd normally look at Mélenchon or Macron. Also went on a rant against Macron in the evening —which came seemingly out of nowhere and didn't move the debate forward in any way.
  • François Fillon (Conservative Right | Les Républicains) — hard to state how discreet he was last night, almost avoiding the spotlight. It used to be his strategy ahead of the debates inside his own party, however this time, it felt more like him avoiding topics altogether, considering the different scandals he's involved in. In my eyes, the only program that makes sense is his conservative economic program, and even then, it remains symptomatic of this generation of people looking to the past for inspiration, rather than focusing on the future. Our modern times are completely different than the second half of the twentieth century, and I personally believe that the way we make the economy, society, and foreign affairs work needs re-thinking.
  • Emmanuel Macron (Liberal Centrist | En Marche) - I'm not the best judge, simply because I'm partially biased. Last night, Macron got attacked on all sides, by all candidates. When they did, he most often took it with a dash of humor, responding with "If you'll allow me, I'd like to respond — I believe this is directly targeted at me/my program." Last night was a big test for him, his first big presidential debate in the spotlight, facing other candidates. By that standard, he stayed strong, however I noticed the media, both French and Foreign feeling like he could have done a better job or could have been more aggressive and sent Le Pen packing. In my eyes, Macron is the only candidate who blends:
    • a pragmatic program on all fronts (economy, foreign affairs, security, health, education, entrepreneurship, etc.),
    • a strong focus on Europe,
    • forward-looking ideas,
    • a desire to leave partisan-issues and mix good ideas, regardless of where they came from.

Other things to note:

  • I'm kind of bummed that they didn't have time to talk about other subjects such as entrepreneurship, technology, and more importantly France's place within Europe. However, running at 200 minutes (3 1/2 hours long), this was already a very long and draining debate, for candidates as well as us, poor citizens behind our television sets.
  • Overall, this was just as I expected — a good way to display each candidate's program, values, ideas or tactics while attempting to contrast or attack their opponents' ideas.
  • It'll be interesting to see how the polls, public opinion, and the first round of voting on April 23rd go.