17:39 GMT +325 April 2018
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    Candidates for the 2017 presidential election, Emmanuel Macron (R), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and Marine Le Pen, of the French National Front (FN) party, pose prior to the start of a live prime-time debate in the studios of French television station France 2, and French private station TF1 in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, near Paris, France, May 3, 2017

    'Manufactured Consent' Alive and Well in France's Presidential Election Campaign

    © REUTERS / Eric Feferberg/Pool
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    On Wednesday, France's presidential contenders held their last TV debate ahead of Sunday's second round vote. According to polls, over 60 percent found Macron more convincing than Le Pen. Russian political scientists spoke to Sputnik about some of the more interesting revelations springing from the debate.

    French presidential contenders, centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen have traded barbs discussing terrorism, immigration, France's place in the European Union, the possible return to a national currency and the country's relations with Russia and the US during their 154-minute debate, the last one before French voters head off to the polls this Sunday.

    After the debate wrapped up, numerous polls revealed that over 60 percent of the viewers favored Macron's performance, rating him more convincing and honest than his rival.

    Russian political journalists and analysts spoke to Sputnik about the poll results, and what is surprising and revealing about them.

    "This, of course, does not mean that Macron really beat Le Pen in the debate," Sputnik contributor Viktor Marakhovsky writes in his article.

    "The recent public campaigns have demonstrated only too clearly that all the post TV-debate polls are, to put it mildly, not very precise. One of the most blistering examples happened in Washington on October 10, when the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton won the debate with her rival, Republican Donald Trump. 57 percent of those polled by CNN and ORC (Opinion Research Corporation) gave her the victory, against 34 percent who thought Trump won," he said.

    While we know how that battle eventually ended, this situation is different, the journalist argues.

    The major lesson of the French presidential campaign which, wrapped up yesterday, is not about Macron's opponents, he notes.

    "We have seen that the French bureaucratic (as well as economic and media) elite, by exercising a strong will, is able to overcome the pesky consequences of the disastrous rule of its previous president," the journalist says.

    François Hollande, he recalls, in not just an unpopular president; his approval rating has never even approached 50 percent throughout his term, fluctuating somewhere between 11 and 20 percent. He was so unpopular that he became one only a handful of French leaders to decide against running for a second presidential term.

    The 39-year-old, who was minister of economy in the unpopular government and was responsible for one of the most unpopular reforms of this president, has taken center stage, coming basically from nowhere, he continued.

    This particular man, he says, who has not even presented any electoral program and who is referred to as "Monsieur Plexiglass," has risen with meteoric speed and has enlisted over 400,000 members into his En Marche! (Forward!) movement. And now he is ready to move into the Élysée Palace.

    In other words, the journalist says, the European bureaucratic elite has demonstrated in France that real politics, are obsolete in the face of the ultra-populism pursued by Macron, who simply tells everyone what they are want to hear.

    "For a disastrously unpopular course, all they need to do is change the "interface" to a more user-friendly and flexible one, once again using the concept of "manufacturing consent", a mechanism that forces the electorate to vote with "yes" to the plans and programs pushed through by elites," Marakhovsky says.

    In the particular case with Macron, he says, it is even more pitiful: while he claims to be pushing through one thing, he is actually going to implement the direct opposite, if and when he comes to power. This is exactly what Hollande did:  pushing through a whole complex of liberal reforms even though they had no relation to his socialist politics.

    In a separate comment on the issue, Eugenia Obichkina, Ph.D. in History, Professor, Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) told Radio Sputnik that Sunday's vote still might spring a surprise.

    "It is yet not clear how people will vote on Sunday. There is a certain trap for Macron – absenteeism. If voters do not come to the polls and ignore the elections, having been disappointed with both candidates, or won't mark any of the candidates on the bulletin, it will be in favor of Marine Le Pen," she told Sputnik.

    He noted that there is also an emotional factor. When, for example, François Fillon's supporters were so disappointed that he did so poorly in the first round that they refused to vote for any of the remaining candidates in the second round.

    This still might be the case, she said, even though they had enough time to return to their senses and think about the future of their country.

    TV debate, French Presidential Election 2017, European Union, Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen, France, Europe
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