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Remarkable French Presidential election debate with 11 candidates 4 April 2017

The French system just pulled off a remarkable 11 candidate debate. Lasting nearly four hours, it was riveting viewing. Six less-knowns challenged the five established candidates, intellectually even if their presidential chances remain far behind. Most made valid and sometimes impressive points. As now nearly all the major contenders have adapted aspects of her policies, Marine Le Pen, ex-criminal trial-lawyer, who makes mincemeat of most interviewers, hardly stood out in the crowd of copycats.

In contrast to this impressive effort by the French Press, the Australian mass media, including the ABC, continues to block most candidates from significant publicity and the electors from knowing their options, maintaining the two party system with a wink and a nod to the Greens. The United States corporate-sponsored Republican/Democrat owned US Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) refused to allow more than two presidential candidates to debate. The US first-past-the-post system makes it difficult for any third party ever to win, but the Australian system is preferential so this excuse should not be made. Incidentally, in 2008 we made the same point when we reported on James Sinnamon's run for Brisbane mayor, and compared Brisbane's lack of democratic coverage with that of the mayoral elections in Paris. [1]

You can also view the debate on France2 here: http://www.francetvinfo.fr/elections/presidentielle/direct-presidentielle-regardez-le-grand-debat-entre-les-11-candidats-sur-bfmtv-et-cnews_2129533.html#xtor=EPR-51-[presidentielle-regardez-en-direct-sur-franceinfo-fr-le-grand-debat-entre-les-11-candidats_2129533]-20170404-[bouton]

Other contrasts between the US, Australian and the French debates are their length. Clinton and Trump debated in one and a half hour trysts. The Turnbull-Shorten debate of 2016 lasted just under one hour with less than rigorous questions from the audience.

This long inclusive presidential debate was a first for France and probably for anywhere. It lasted nearly four hours.

The most well-known candidates - Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, François Fillon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon et Benoît Hamon – had already debated on TFI on the 20th of March 2017. At the time several of those candidates had said that it was a pity that the other six had not been invited to debate. At the time it seemed that the risk of an 11 person debate was about zero. The 11 person debate, with each candidate's responses individually timed, was a triumph of modern media and of BFMTV in particular, as a French audience of 6 million heard the views of Philippe Poutou (NPA), Nathalie Arthaud (LO), Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (DLF), François Asselineau (UPR), Jean Lassalle et Jacques Cheminade.

The candidates were questioned on three themes: How to create jobs; how to protect the French people; and how each candidate would put their policies into practice. It was hard for them to get away with cliches because these would be challenged by the other candidates and the challenges were less predictable than they would have been in a smaller and more traditional field.

NOTES

"Why the Brisbane Mayoral elections should not have been 'boring'"
"Courier Mail provides 'boring', yet unbalanced, coverage of Brisbane City Council elections"

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