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French election breakdown: TV debates, latest polls and anti-Semitism

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
French election breakdown: TV debates, latest polls and anti-Semitism
Protesters in Lyon hold placards which read "Anti-Semitism is not residual", "+1000% in anti-Semitic acts, these aren't just figures", "Our lives are worth more than the imported conflict". Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

From the latest polls to the big election TV debates, and why anti-Semitism has become one of the biggest talking points of the campaign - here's the situation 12 days on from Emmanuel Macron's shock election announcement.


During the election period we will be publishing a bi-weekly 'election breakdown' to help you keep up with the latest developments. You can receive these as an email by going to the newsletter section here and selecting subscribe to 'breaking news alerts'.

We're now 12 days on from Macron's surprise announcement of snap elections to determine the make-up of the French parliament and campaigning is well underway.

By convention, French presidents don't get involved in parliamentary elections - this is the responsibility of the prime minister (in this case Gabriel Attal, who appears to be back in the saddle despite clearly thinking that calling the election was a big mistake). This time is different, since it was Emmanuel Macron who took the decision to dissolve parliament early and call fresh elections.

But how much campaigning should the president himself do? The answer from at least some of his senior team seems to be 'as little as possible' - concerned as they are that his great unpopularity will do more harm than good.


An election outing this week resulted in Macron making off-the-cuff comments that seemed to play into US-style culture wars over trans rights, infuriating both the left and several high-profile members of his own party. Campaign directors may be considering simply locking him in a cupboard for the next two weeks. 

TV debates

TV debates are a set piece of any French election and they are a genuinely tough test - usually lasting several hours in which candidates will be grilled on all aspects of their policy and are expected to be able to answer detailed questions. They're screened on prime-time TV and attract big audiences.

This election's debate has now been confirmed for Tuesday, June 25th. It will be between prime minister Gabriel Attal, the far-right's Jordan Bardella and Manuel Bompard representing the left alliance. The question of who the wide-ranging alliance of the left would nominate as prime minister, if they win a majority, has been a very delicate one.

Interestingly Bompard, although nominated as their representative in the debate, is not being widely spoken of a front-runner to be named as PM. 

The candidates: Who will be France's next prime minister?

Anti-Semitism fears

As polls suggest that in many areas the second round of voting will come down to a run-off between the far-right Rassemblement National and the left alliance Nouveau Front Populaire, more and more Jewish voters are speaking out about the agonising choice they face.

You might think this would be a no-brainer - RN was, after all, co-founded by a former member of the Waffen SS and was for many years run by the convicted Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen. However in more recent months La France Insoumise - the largest member of the leftist coalition - has become mired in accusations of anti-Semitism.

Some within the party seem to find it hard to make the distinction between solidarity with the people of Gaza/ condemnation of Israel's military tactics and anti-Semitism. In a pattern that British readers will probably find familiar, party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been slow to recognise the problem and reluctant to condemn the culprits.

The issue was brought into sharp focus this week by a horrifying crime - a 12-year-old Jewish girl was gang-raped in an an apparently anti-Semitic attack.


At several vigils and protests around France signs could be seen saying 'L'antisémitisme, n'est pas residuel' - a reference to a quote from Mélenchon, who suggested that Jewish people in France suffer only "residual" anti-Semitism. 


Speaking of polls, several pollsters have said that this election is particularly hard to call. Parliamentary elections are always a bit more difficult because some people vote on local issues, so it's harder to track national political trends - throw in some newly created alliances, the last-minute and very short campaign and the drama of recent days and there are quite a few extra wildcards this time.

With those caveats in mind - things are still not looking good for Macron; polling suggests that RN will take 33 percent of the vote, Nouveau Front Populaire 29 percent and Macron's centrist group 22 percent. That brings us into hung parliament territory, and a worse deadlock than already exists.

OPINION: France has taken leave of its senses and it's no laughing matter

France's pollsters are normally very accurate and this is a country that is obsessed with polls - several newspapers and magazines run monthly voting intention polls even when elections are years away. My favourite is the annual 'beer test' - when French voters are asked which politician they would most like to go for a beer with. 


What next?

On Monday starts the final week of campaigning, and Tuesday sees that three-way TV debate - it will be on TF1 TV and also LCI radio from 9pm.

Anyone who will be away on polling day has just a few days left to arrange a proxy vote, and then the first round of voting is on Sunday, June 30th.

You can find all the latest election news HERE, or sign up to receive these election breakdowns as an email by going to the newsletter section here and selecting subscribe to 'breaking news alerts'.



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