On its knees: France’s political establishment

On its knees: France’s political establishment

Viewers will witness a historic event when the top contenders vying for the French presidency meet for the first debate

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Viewers will witness a historic event when the top contenders vying for the French presidency meet for the first debate on Monday.

Ever since the inception of the Fifth Republic, French politics has been dominated by two camps: conservatives and socialists. This year, however, the Socialist Party has effectively been relegated to spectator status; the conservative Republicans are expected to share this fate after the first round vote on April 23.

With the former dominant forces out of the picture, the time is ripe for political outsiders. All eyes will be on the front runners – populist insurgent Marine Le Pen and independent former investment banker Emmanuel Macron.

The debate will open with social questions, focussing on national identity, security and immigration – issues that form the core of Ms Le Pen’s platform. Candidates will then be quizzed on their plans for the economy. Macron will use this opportunity to lay out his ambitious economic proposals, including cutting corporate taxes from 33% to 25% and laying off some 120,000 civil servants. These pro-business policies stand in stark contrast to Le Pen’s, who has a deeply protectionist outlook; expect her to hurl accusations of elitism at the former banker.