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What To Think About ‘Le Grand Débat?’

J.N. PAQUET photo
What To Think About ‘Le Grand Débat?’
Last night, the 11 candidates in the French Presidential election took part in a TV debate. It was a very different debate from the first one that opposed only the 5 major candidates last week. The first ever debate with 11 candidates lasted nearly 4 hours.

How did the candidates fare?

Jean-Luc Melenchon (Far-Left) has been once again quite good and very calm. he knew what he was talking about and was not attacking anyone — except a couple of attacks against Marine Le Pen. Yet, his behaviour was very Mitterrand-styled.

Emmanuel Macron (Independent, Centre-Left) has tried to have a couple of little fights with Marine Le Pen, but was not as strong and didn’t look as confident last night as he was during the first debate. Very conservative this time around.

Nathalie Arthaud and Philippe Poutou (Far-Left, Revolutionaries) have brought their far-left revolutionary spicy bits, very punchy and some special attacks on Francois Fillon — Philippe Poutou in particular naming and shaming him twice about his affairs and attacking Marine Le Pen on her affairs too.

Francois Fillon (Centre-Right) was very silent last night, receiving the punches from all sides and not giving much in return. Really strange behaviour for the man who was supposed to surf above everyone else last January after a successful primary election.

Benoit Hamon (Socialist Party), on the contrary, has taken a bigger role in the debate, engaging with the other candidates, attacking arguments, even attacking the journalists when Marine Le Pen was ahead in the time limits.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Right-Wing Sovereignist) has been disruptive whenever he could, especially with his neighbour on stage, Emmanuel Macron, cutting him a couple of times when he was trying to develop his arguments. A technique that paid, according to the opinion polls. He also launched a couple of attacks against Francois Fillon’s policies as a former Prime Minister.

Francois Asselineau (Far-Right, Sovereignist) was just out of this world with his only and continuous “I want to leave the EU” message. Give the man a boat and let him go!

Jacques Cheminade (Right-Wing, Sovereignist) was more serious than in previous election debates and more than expected with some interesting bits, but he also completely lost his way towards the end when mixing the Liberation in 1945 and the French Revolution in 1789.

Jean Lassalle (Centre-Right, Liberalism) was very entertaining (even laughable at times!), but very much in his own bubble with parts of his speech, and his conclusion, where he talked about things that had nothing to do with the questions or topics.

Finally, Marine Le Pen (Far-Right), was trying to sort herself out of the other candidates’ attacks, but she was very much the target of most attacks. She also lost of her shining from the first debate. She was a bit lost and, because of the attacks, she was forced to be more aggressive too.


During this new 11-candidate debate, the two journalists have been very disruptive, asking the candidates to answer their questions and not giving them much time to reply to what other candidates said before them.

A pity, because the debate with 11 candidates, despite a couple of chaotic bits, was surprisingly working quite well. Maybe a debate without any journalist would have worked better!

Who are the winners and the losers?

Winner: Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The winner of last night’s debate has to be Jean-Luc Melenchon, with his calm behaviour, reminding a certain Francois Mitterrand’s 1981 “La France tranquille” (compare the posters below and see the similarities between the 1981 and 2017 campaigns). Remember: Melenchon was a Socialist before!

Mitterrand 1981 compare to Melenchon 2017...

Emmanuel Macron is still strong too, but he probably tried not to get harmed by any bullet from the other candidates, less than 3 weeks before the first round of the election.

A special mention for Nathalie Arthaud and Philippe Poutou (super casual both in the way he dressed and the way he spoke) who were really punchy in their own ways and did not hold the punches!

Loser: Marine Le Pen.

Last night’s loser? Marine Le Pen. She got shot down on every occasion she had to open her mouth. Her arguments didn’t go far. Everyone was on her case. Interestingly enough, the 11-candidate format definitely does not favour a candidate like Le Pen, probably because the more candidates, the more her voice and racist views get diluted!

For a complete reading of the debate’s live coverage, visit our live feed.

(Note: If you would like to republish any of the articles on a commercial basis, please email us at [email protected])

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J.N. PAQUET is an author, journalist and political writer. He is the editor of His book series on populism and nationalism The Tip of The Populist Iceberg? is available in print, eBook and audiobook worldwide.

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