Tuesday, January 18

The pandemic is turning the French presidential elections upside down


Correspondent in Paris

Updated:

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Emmanuel Macron, his Government and the Constitutional Court (TC), have begun to study the modalities and alternatives, of the postponement or “non-face-to-face” vote, of the presidential elections next April, whose campaign begins to suffer the alarming consequences of the health pandemic.

During the month of March 2020, the second round of the municipal elections had to be postponed a quarter, consequence of the beginning of the pandemic.

Eighteen months later, the disturbing spread of new variants of the virus has turned into a political, electoral and institutional nightmare.

At the top of the state, Macron has asked his interior minister, Gérald Darmanin (former official spokesman for Nicolas Sarkozy), to study with the president of the Constitutional Court (TC), Laurent Fabius, François Mitterrand’s former minister, which alternatives or voting modalities could be decided before the presidential elections on April 10 and 24.

“What to do if the virus spreads alarmingly in the coming months, as it already did in 2020?” Faced with this question, Macron, his government and all political parties, consider various alternatives.

According to the constitutionalists, postponing the presidential election would be difficult, complex and almost impossible, in such a short time. On the contrary, slightly modifying the date could be easier. At the same time, the president, government and parties evaluate the risks and opportunities of changing voting modalities, to avoid, dilute or complete direct, face-to-face voting at the polls. The Ministry of the Interior is studying possibilities and alternatives: electronic voting, voting by correspondence.

In the shorter term, the pandemic has begun to profoundly disrupt the electoral campaign.

Candidates

After a catastrophic beginning, with two rallies of the ultra-left and the ultra-right (Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Éric Zemour), which caused serious clashes and a string of complaints from the health community, the rallies are being provisionally eliminated. The mandatory masks and physical distancing complicate and give a disastrous image of the rallies, which are being replaced by radio and TV broadcasts.

The provisional and voluntary suppression of political rallies, pending events, is a risk or an opportunity for the majority candidates.

On the left, the socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo, and the communist candidate, Fabien RousselThey could hope that the mitinesque atmosphere would relaunch its campaigns. Lost hope. In radio and TV, he will have to endure the competition of five other ultra-minority candidates stealing their antenna.

To the extreme left, Mélenchon he had high hopes for his oratorical arts. Without rallies, he has four ultra-left rivals. To the ultra and extreme right, Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour they relied on the drive of their followers. Three other rival and residual candidates also appear regularly on radio and TV. The environmental candidate, Yannick Jadot, believed he was alone: ​​he has discovered an audiovisual rival, Antoine Waechter.

On the right, Valérie Pécresse benefits from the situation: she is alone on radio and TV; and he has at his side the entire staff of conservative families.

In the political and institutional center, with winks to the left and the right, Emmanuel Macron may be the great beneficiary: he could not hold rallies; but he will occupy the audiovisual scene, at all hours, as acting president of the European Union (EU). Your advantage: occupy the land. His risk: national satiety in the face of his abusive occupation of radio and TV, at all hours.

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