It is still the Presidential elections in France and last night was the great debate, which I didn’t find so great, but I did find rather fun to watch. French political debates are very different from my memories of US Presidential debates. Instead of standing officially at lecterns, each candidate is comfortably seated, with their notes. They face each other, not the voters, which helps tensions rise and makes for some great tv moments. As does the fact that the candidates do not have a set time limit for each answer. From an anglo-saxon perspective, this is not a debate, but a moderated argument, that turns into an intellectual free for all.
If I had any doubts as to the tone of the debate, I had only to look at the stage set, which closely resembled an electrified, post-modern gladiator arena from the days when Astérix and Obelisk were tormenting their Roman landlords in a Paris that was known as Lutèce.
Two journalist join the candidates at a table that, in keeping with the ancient roman theme, resembles a gladiator’s shield when seen from above. Their official role is to ask the questions, balance each candidate’s speaking time and try to keep the debate moving forward. Their unofficial role is to prevent it from coming to blows.
In true forum style, candidates quickly go beyond the gallic shrug and show their latin roots as they pound fists on the table, point fingers and throw insults at one another. And what never ceases to amuse my anglo upbringing is that they interrupt each other. Loudly and for an extended period of time, so that voters, hoping to be more informed, and perhaps make a decision based on some facts, never actually hear any facts.
Following another anglo tradition, my New Zealander friend Koko has an important note for the socialist party’s candidate; your party’s colors are red, not blue, red. Change the glasses, get a new tie and for heaven’s sake man, show some pride in your team! Nobody, but nobody in the French press has mentioned this little faux pas, so my best guess is that in France, this is not a faux pas. Red is simply not ‘in’ this year and no matter what your political allegiance may be, this is Paris… fashion first!
After talking to Koko, I made a point of noticing that the two journalists on the set. They were both clad in a judicial, neutral black. Très chic…