Mon. Jan 24th, 2022


As France prepares for this year’s presidential election amid an increase in Covid-19 infections, candidates’ different approaches to health measures at their political rallies have led to the emergence of a two-speed campaign.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National Party said on Monday they would not apply a 2,000-person limit to indoor events, nor would they ask for proof of vaccination, measures required by President Emmanuel Macron’s government for many types of opportunities.

Political parties can choose which Covid health protocols to apply after the country’s constitutional court rules in May that the government can not unnecessarily restrict religious, political or trade union activities by requiring people to show health records.

Mainstream parties such as Macron’s La République en Marche and Valerie PécresseLes Republicains has undertaken to place a limit on crowd numbers and apply other measures because they say it is a responsible approach to campaigning during a pandemic. On the other hand, far-right and far-left candidates from Eric Zemmour to Jean-Luc Mélenchon avoid them in the name of freedom.

“We will not let the presidential election steal from us or the French people.” Sébastien Chenu, a member of parliament and spokesman for Rassemblement National, said on France Inter-radio. “There are many problems in this country. . . during an election we must be able to debate and inform the public. ”

But Le Pen’s campaign said it would delay its first major rally, originally scheduled for January 15-16 in Reims, due to the “health situation and epidemic peak predicted at the time” and rather at 5 p.m. February would hold.

Mélenchon said he would hand out high-filtration N95 masks to people during a January 16 rally in Nantes. “We will take steps to protect people, but you can not have a campaign without rallies,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pécresse said she would limit crowd sizes in an effort to be “exemplary”.

As in other elections worldwide, the pandemic is expected to play a role in the dynamics of France’s election and voters’ perceptions of the candidates.

Pedestrians with face masks walk near the Eiffel Tower
France’s rise in Covid infections is widely expected to make it more difficult for candidates to run their campaigns © Ian Langsdon / EPA / Shutterstock

Infections have been at record highs in the past week, mainly driven by the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, which according to health officials now accounts for about 60 percent of new cases. About 160,000 new infections are detected daily based on a seven-day moving average, which puts France at 234 cases per 100,000 people, similar to the UK and much higher than the US or EU, according to the Financial Times Covid tracker.

Covid hospitalizations in France have risen by 20 percent in the past week. Last week, the government required people to work from home at least three days a week, tightening limited crowd sizes at events and wearing masks, but stopped closing businesses or introducing curfew rules like last year.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran has criticized some candidates for their rallies. “I wonder how they can claim that they will be responsible once they are in power if they are not able to be responsible while they may seek,” he said.

Macron is leading opinion polls, with about 24 percent of voters saying they plan to vote for him in the first round of France’s two-round election, according to Harris Interactive. Pécresse votes about 17 percent, followed by Le Pen with 16 percent and Zemmour with 15 percent.

Dominique Reynié, an analyst at Fondapol think tank, said the Covid boom makes it more difficult for candidates to launch their campaigns and will cause ‘instability’ in public opinion.

“It will significantly delay voters from deciding on their intentions. “For the first time, none of the candidates, not even the president, can really control the agenda, so it creates the conditions for surprises.”

Additional post by Sarah White





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