What the papers said 5 April 2017

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Le Figaro and Libération both have tough words for last night’s presidential debate, which featured a whopping 11 candidates on stage – something never seen before in France – while Le Monde focused on the scary prospects for the EU.

Eleven was clearly too high a number for conservative paper Le Figaro, which writes that the debate “quickly turned to confusion” in its top headline.

Nor does the paper show much admiration for the six candidates from further down in the polls who were invited to last night’s debate after being excluded from the first one. They “decided to go on the offensive in order to better make their voices heard,” Le Figaro says.

“Confusion”, “cacophony”, “provocation”, “interruptions” – those were just a few of the words Le Figaro uses to describe the debate.

According to the right-wing paper, there was so much chaos that it blurred traditional party lines: Socialist Benoît Hamon at times appeared to be on the right, Republicans candidate François Fillon looked like he was on the left and Emmanuel Macron – who normally agrees with everyone – stuck to the centre this time.

Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, often the rabble-rouser, even sounded a little cautious: “Careful, friends, we need to make sure this evening helps people understand,” Le Figaro quotes him as saying.

Shaking up the debate

Libération, on the left, has a very different take, writing that the “petits candidats”, as the lesser-known candidates are known, “shook up the debate”.

“Invited to debate against the campaign leaders, the other presidential hopefuls broke the codes of what could have been a very preformatted discussion: Revolt!” is how Libé begins its front-page editorial.

According to Libération, only two out of the 11 candidates were willing to defend “le grand capital”, or the world of finance.

Unsurprisingly for Libération, it was the little candidates who led the charge against big finance: “They forcefully expressed something profound. Facing injustice, they rejected the ruling class that has let money have its day.”

Scary elections

Le Monde chimes in with its own negative take on the election campaign.

“The presidential elections are scaring the European Union,” reads its top headline.

That story is about how the European Union is, so far, too scared of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to consider the possibility that she could win the election.

The paper argues that the EU has “no Plan B” in case of a Le Pen presidency – not in Brussels, the seat of the EU, nor in Frankfurt, where the EU central bank is located.

Le Monde warns that the situation is similar to the EU’s inability to foresee the vote for Brexit last year. They warn that Le Pen would be even worse for the EU than US President Donald Trump.

But, in another article, Le Monde points out that despite all the excitement for politics, a third of voters haven’t decided if they will even cast a ballot at all in these elections. So it’s still too early to predict what will happen.