Republican tradition respected in all presidential elections since 1974, with the exception of 2002, when the debate between the two candidates who came out on top in the first round was often pivotal. Back to the most important moments.
Emmanuel Macron – Marine Le Pen: Return leg. The outgoing president and National Rally candidate meet Wednesday night for the televised debate for the second round of the 2022 presidential election. Five years ago, it was all these two candidates who faced each other on the set and then in the voting boxes. A debate that had been fatal for the Frontist candidate.
Since 1974 and the appearance of this program format for the presidential election, viewers have witnessed a number of attacks, recriminations and kicks. Anthology of small sentences and great moments.
2017: Marine Le Pen versus Emmanuel Macron
The crucial moment. In 2017, Marine Le Pen chose to attack. The frontist candidate is offensive from the first minutes, knocking over card after card. Short sentences merge on both sides. †Mr Macron is the candidate for the dismemberment of France”accuses Marine Le Pen. “You have shown that you are not the candidate for the spirit of finesse”, replies Emmanuel Macron. In addition to these attacks and the general brouhaha, the debate is marked by a moon scene, which still clings to the skin of the frontist candidate today. After more than two hours of heated debate and discussing the rift between France from above and France from below, Marine Le Pen goes into a diatribe on the “intruders† “Look, they are there, in the countryside, in the cities… They are on social networks.” All imitated with amazing gestures (from 2:18).
The effect on mood. The debate is a disaster for Marine Le Pen, who falls below 40% in the polls four days before the second round of the presidential election. Emmanuel Macron will ultimately win with 66% of the vote.
2012: Nicolas Sarkozy against François Hollande
The crucial moment. During this debate, the longest the viewers of the Fifth Republic have ever witnessed (2h50 in total), it was François Hollande who seemed to dominate from start to finish, especially since he was the first to speak on all topics through the draw, the outgoing president who contented himself with answering his interventions. The debate will be marked less by the confrontation between the two men than by the famous diatribe”I presidentby François Hollande, almost every sentence of which is a thinly veiled attack on a bad memory left behind by the previous five-year term.
The effect on mood. Fueled by a strong “anti-Sarkozy” sentiment, François Hollande scored points during this debate, winning the election with a slight lead: 51.64% of the vote.
2007: Ségolène Royal against Nicolas Sarkozy
The crucial moment. This presidential debate is not lacking in fishing. Nicolas Sarkozy, whom voters see as a hot-tempered man, tries as much as possible to portray a calm and peaceful candidate. Conversely, Ségolène Royal, who is considered more controlled and less supported by her party, has everything to gain by forcing her presence, which she does on several occasions. Especially in this quite lively exchange, this “healthy anger” where she is indignant about the reception of disabled students in education (1h52).
The effect on mood. Successful strategy for Nicolas Sarkozy, who is paradoxically considered calmer than his opponent in the polls. He won the election with 53.06% of the vote.
2002: Jacques Chirac avoids Jean-Marie Le Pen
The crucial moment. For the first time since 1974, this between-rounds has no debate between the two finalists, Jacques Chirac categorically refusing to debate with Jean-Marie Le Pen, qualifying surprise of the first round. The outgoing president confirms it in a speech: “Just as I have not accepted an alliance with the Front National in the past, regardless of the political price, I will not accept a debate with its representative tomorrow.
The effect on mood. Jacques Chirac didn’t need this debate after all. Fueled by a huge movement of votes against the National Front, he won the election with a record score of 82.21% of the vote.
1995: Jacques Chirac against Lionel Jospin
The crucial moment. While everyone expected a duel between Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Édouard Balladur, it was finally Lionel Jospin who qualified and came out on top in the first lap. The debate between the two is calm, courteous, without a little sentence… What we will eventually remember is this small exchange between the two candidates after the debate, and in particular Jacques Chirac who assures us that “the French hate” spades and small sentences.
The effect on mood. Jacques Chirac wins the election with 52.64% of the vote, but will make Lionel Jospin prime minister two years later, following the dissolution of the National Assembly which he himself decided.
1988: François Mitterrand against Jacques Chirac
The crucial moment. In this second round, the outgoing president and his prime minister compete for two years. And this is also the attack axis that François Mitterrand will use at different levels. First, he makes sure that the debating table is exactly the same size as that of the Council of Ministers… And decides to call his opponent “Mr. Prime Minister”, as if to maintain a hierarchical link. Jacques Chirac is annoyed… And François Mitterrand cheers.
The effect on mood. François Mitterrand is the one of the two who will have most embodied for the voters the President of the Republic. They are renewing him for 54.02% in this position.
1981: François Mitterrand against Valery Giscard d’Estaing
The crucial moment. The 1981 presidential election saw the return match between François Mitterrand and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the second round. The 1974 debate left a bad memory for François Mitterrand, who then accused the President of the Republic of “the old man“, referring to his already long political career, which began 27 years earlier. This time, the socialist candidate takes revenge: he takes the opposite position of the criticism expressed seven years earlier, accusing Valéry Giscard d’Estaing of having become “the passive man”†
The effect on mood. This time, advantage Mitterrand. The latter won the election with 51.76% of the vote.
1974: Valéry Giscard d’Estaing against François Mitterrand
The crucial moment. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then Minister of Economy and Finance, comes face to face with François Mitterrand, First Secretary of the Socialist Party. The latter attacks him in particular on the question of the distribution of wealth, believing that in this case it is necessary to demonstrate “smart” but also “of the heart“. The sentence irritates his opponent, who replies: “You don’t have the monopoly of the heart.”
The effect on mood. The day after the debate, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing scored 1.5 points in the polls. He narrowly won the presidential election with 50.81% of the vote.