Only in France: French president spends eight hours debating with intellectuals

French president Emmanuel Macron has broken a personal record by spending an astonishing eight hours debating with a group of 60 intellectuals and scientists. Would this happen in other countries?

Only in France: French president spends eight hours debating with intellectuals
Emmanuel Macron continuing his series of debates. Photo: AFP

The president set himself a new personal record on Monday, speaking for eight hours and 10 minutes – finally finishing at 2.30am in a room that had slowly emptied of spectators and even some participants.

For two and half months, the 41-year-old has criss-crossed France for town-hall meetings as part of his “Great National Debate”, launched as a remedy to the anger seen in the “yellow vest” protests.

READ ALSO: What are the main gripes French people have with their country?

(The Yellow Vest protests have thrown up a wide range of grievances. Photo: AFP)

Previous sessions had seen him show off his stamina, with the former  investment banker fielding questions from voters on issues ranging from hospital closures to foreign policy, often for four or five hours or more.

But on Monday night he surpassed himself talking in Paris for eight hours and 10 minutes, finally finishing at 2.30am in a room that had slowly emptied of spectators and even participants, some making their excuses before the end.

The title of the debate — “the main challenges and future issues that France will be confronted with” — set the tone for sometimes dense discussions at the presidential palace, which were broadcast on France Culture radio station.


Sixty intellectuals, economists and environmental scientists took part  with Macron, who won office in May 2017 promising to speak rarely to increase the impact of his declarations.

The “Great National Debate” was written off by some critics before it  started, but it has helped pull the centrist leader out of the worst crisis of  his presidency caused by protests which began in mid-November.

 A poll published last Thursday by the Elabe survey group showed Macron's approval rating up eight percentage points since December, with 31 percent of voters having a positive opinion of him.

The “yellow vest” protests started over fuel taxes, but snowballed into a national revolt against Macron's governing style and pro-business policies.

He has repeatedly defended his record during debate appearances and again  made the case on Monday for highly contested tax cuts for the wealthy, which he introduced early in his term.

“We haven't sufficiently kept productive capital in France which creates  jobs,” he told the audience. 

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Macron to make live TV broadcast to France

French president Emmanuel Macron will make a live TV broadcast to the nation about the war in Ukraine.

Macron to make live TV broadcast to France

Macron will be on TV on Wednesday at 8pm, the Elysée confirmed earlier on Wednesday.

Macron also tweeted the announcement, saying that his speech will be on the subject of the war in Ukraine.

His office added that the president’s speech “will not touch on other matters” – Macron has only until Friday to confirm whether or not he is running for re-election.

It is widely considered to be extremely unlikely that he would not stand in the April elections, but all candidates have until Friday, March 4th, to make their declaration.

Macron’s team had previously announced a rally in Marseille on Saturday, March 5th, which was expected to be the first official campaign event, but on Tuesday this was cancelled because of the ongoing international crisis.

Macron was at the forefront of international efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, and since Russia invaded Ukraine he has remained in close contact with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and has also spoken – at the request of Zelensky – to Russian premier Vladimir Putin.

The Local will be following Macron’s speech live from 8pm HERE.