The last nine months, an earthquake has shaken France's political landscape. First, the success of both Republican and Socialist parties' primaries for the presidency resulted in a dead end. The right- and left-wing candidates aggregated votes reaching 26 percent of total votes in the first round of the presidential election. Five years ago, at the same stage, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy gathered 56 percent.
Extreme Right and Left parties, campaigning on programs with such large similarities that their voters switched easily from one to the other, climbed to 43 percent. Far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez's friend, ended up becoming the Left figure of this campaign by tripling the Socialist Party's votes.
Marine Le Pen, far-right finalist against centrist Emmanuel Macron, is still expected by pollsters to score around 40 percent on Sunday.
Macron achieved the phantasmagoric dream of incarnating the center for the first time in France's history. The 39-year-old former banker and socialist economy minister seduced voters after an almost-flawless campaign.
Then, on Wednesday, an unrealistic TV show took place. Two hours of constant insults, vituperations and invectives. All along the debate, there was no place for ideas or even programs, only punches, twists or evasions. Le Pen even portrayed herself as a fervent de Gaulle supporter. Quite an astonishing news when one remembers that "Front National", the party inherited from her father, was designed in 1974 by Organisation Armee Secrete's partisans — the same OAS that hated de Gaulle so much that they plotted to murder him in 1962 in the so-called "Petit Clamart attack."
This debate also revealed the inability of Le Pen to abandon her eternal anti-system costume and to rise to a presidential stature. Uneasy to switch a 20-year boxing career for one of a young opera dancer…
This exercise benefited Macron, who had much to lose but performed pretty well. Better prepared and more precise on his answers, Macron was deemed the most convincing candidate by 63 percent of the viewers in the exit polls.
But as a political tightrope walker, he also showed major weaknesses. The weaknesses of a blurry ideological spine, constantly trying to please rightists and far-leftists at the same time. By passing the blame onto each other, Le Pen and Macron gave the French democracy a serious hit. As a result, this debate left a bitter taste in the viewer's mouth.
France clearly appears cut in half on the social side: urban mid-upper bourgeoisie that slowly but surely turned their backs on traditional political leaders rapidly embraced the popular newcomer, while the lower rural classes who felt abandoned and victim of a globalization - to which they gave Europe the name - joined a barking populist figure.
Le Pen scored higher than Macron in 19,000 municipalities, more than 50 percent of France's municipalities! As if the country was experiencing again the old struggle between large urban centers and church spires' of small villages.
France is also separated in two geographically. Westerners who live by the seafront or in central France have predominantly chosen to give their votes to Macron. Southerners and easterners living next to the borders have mainly supported Le Pen and her anti-immigration program.
Nevertheless on Sunday, France will look indulgently to its newly-elected president for appeasing signs of unity and humility. It is now time to close this fratricidal episode which once again revealed the old French bad habit of a country which burns its idols.
Jean de Nicolay is a consultant in lobbying and public affairs. He was a member of several French ministers' cabinets until 2012. After being involved in Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 campaign, he joined Francois Fillon's government as a communication and parliamentary advisor.
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