French presidential campaign ‘neglects big issues,’ voters say

David Chazan

Most French voters believe key issues are being overlooked in the presidential election campaign and too much importance placed on the candidates’ personalities, a poll indicated yesterday (Sat).

The Harris Interactive survey showed that 81 per cent are dissatisfied with the campaign a week before voting begins. Some 70 per cent consider that the political debate is failing to address France’s economic and social problems.With a third of voters still undecided, many said they were unsure what the candidates’ first actions would be if elected.

Chart: Usually around one in five French people abstain in elections

Sébastien Grislain, 42, who runs an interior decorating business in Paris, said: “French politics has become Americanised and the campaign is only dealing with superficial issues.”

Television and radio stations have been forced to cut coverage of the four frontrunners because of a rule that they must devote equal time to all 11 candidates, seven of whom are viewed as no-hopers. The requirement applies during the final two weeks before the first round on April 23, until the May 7 runoff.

About half a million voters have been registered on the electoral roll twice because of a computer bug, raising fears that some may cast two ballots.  

That could cast doubt on the result as France’s most unpredictable election in decades appears to be an increasingly tight race, with the four main candidates bunched close together.

Emanuel Macron Credit: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Some polls now place the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron marginally in the lead for the first round, but others show him neck and neck with the far-Right leader Marine Le Pen on about 22 per cent each. Close behind are the far-Left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the scandal-hit conservative, François Fillon, on 20 and 19 per cent respectively.

Given the three-point margin of error, it now appears uncertain which two candidates will qualify for the runoff, which has caused consternation among aides of both Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen. They had previously been predicted to face each other in the second round, with Mr Macron expected to win comfortably.

The Enfants Rouges market in central Paris, where affluent young couples buy organic vegetables or eat lunch at sophisticated food stalls, is the sort of place where you would expect to meet Mr Macron’s supporters, who tend to be liberal urbanites.

French elections polling - who is most honest?

Yet some appear to be wavering. Jennifer, 38, an assistant head teacher, said: “I’m concerned about how he could govern. I don’t think his movement will get a parliamentary majority without the apparatus of an established party. I honestly don’t who I’m going to vote for.”

Her partner, Arnaud, a civil servant, also 38, disagreed. “I’m definitely voting for him. He’s the most intelligent.”

Most people planning to vote for Mr Macron mention his youth, intellect and energy, although some say he is simply the best of a bad lot. Few can give details about his policies.

Arnaud and Jennifer are typical of many families who are divided as never before over an election. Conversations over Easter Sunday lunch may become heated.

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