Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have wrapped their highly-anticipated presidential debate – so who will come out on top to lead France in a few days time?
It’s a little bit like deja vu for voters in France, with this exact same debate occurring five years ago when Le Pen last challenged Macron for the top job.
In just four days, French residents will once again take to the polls and elect their next president.
Incumbent leader Macron was victorious in the 2017 showdown and then went on to become president.
It is this debate that was seen as one of the reasons why Le Pen was unsuccessful in her bid for the presidency.
Analysts say Macron was largely on the offensive, appearing like a challenger and interrupting Le Pen on numerous occasions.
Political commentator Natanael Bloch joined ticker NEWS, and says the debate was more civilised than in 2017.
“Le Pen wanted to attack him (Macron) on the five past years. So that’s why Macron was on the offensive because he didn’t want to let her attack him on what he did in the five previous years,” he says.
Le Pen is currently trailing behind Macron in the latest polls, but political analysts stress the race to the Elysee Palace is far from over.
Millions of voters remain undecided and over the two and a half hours of debate, both are hoping to gain the upper hand.
“It’s very difficult to say if (the debate) will have an influence on the vote, there was only one survey poll that happened after the debate showing that at the moment, 60 per cent of the people who have watched the debate were more convinced than Emmanuel Macron and 40 per cent, by Le Pen,” Bloch tells ticker.
As the debate kicked off, Le Pen said 70 per cent of the French people believe their standard of living had declined over the past five years of Macron’s administration.
The two candidates butted heads over this as well as Russia, climate change and immigration.
Le Pen congratulated Macron for his work in Ukraine but criticised him for cutting off Russia.
Bloch says it was impossible for Le Pen to not recognise that Emmanuel Macron, once again, is quite good and successful in some international affairs.
“She’s saying that even if she’s financed by Russia, it doesn’t mean that she’s dependent of Russia, which obviously is something that is really not strong,” bloch tells ticker.
“When you watch the debate. The only thing that she wanted to bring, is that the European Union will have to deal with Russia.”
Macron has been a strong diplomat during the Ukraine war, putting France on the world stage, can the Le Pen handle foreign affairs when she’s so tightly focused on national issues?
Bloch says Le Pen has changed her position in terms of finance.
“In terms of foreign affairs regarding EU for example, a couple of months years ago, she was saying that she wants what we can call the free exit, exiting the European Union. And now when Macron teased her on that yesterday, she said that she doesn’t want to exit the EU anymore, but she wants France to recover more sovereignty and more powers within the EU,” he says.
Bloch says this is difficult, because there are some decisions that can only be taken at the EU level.
“And as an individual state, you can’t really deal even on the international scene, if you don’t have the EU support with you. And this is where we also see the limit of Le Pen programme in terms of Foreign Affairs and International Relations.”
He says Le Pen seems to be in the middle of somewhere. “And naturally assuming the fact that she wants to exit you as she wants also, that France is out of the NATO military command.”
“That’s something that she repeated is that she doesn’t want to quit EU anymore, she really wants France out of NATO military command. And she wants to integrate also Russia and create more tight relationship between NATO and Russia,” he adds.
“But you know, with all of these elements, it seems a very, very unbalanced programmes in terms of international relations.”
Finally, Bloch says Emmanuel Macron knows he has has some success on the international scene such as the Brexit and he has the lead to drive Europe through ongoing crises.
The debate was broadcast on the nation’s two biggest TV networks as well as news channels.
Trump’s campaign debut was panned – but don’t underestimate his chances
Last weekend, Donald Trump held two events in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first official forays onto the 2024 presidential battlefield.
The experts panned it.
A lot of the political class is talking about Trump in the past tense, and not the future, briefing out to the media that his rambling, Fidel Castro-like monologues bore his audiences silly, that his obsessions and battles with his political enemies do not have the reach they did in 2016 and during his term in office, that he is immersing himself more deeply in extremist QAnon cult waters, that he faces indictments and trials that will derail his campaign and might even put him in jail.
And more: that Trump wallows in the “stolen” 2020 election, knowing that there was no way he could have lost since he got 12 million more votes than in 2016. Trump never concedes. Six years later, he does not acknowledge that Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 – and that he won only because she lost in the Electoral College.
The telling critique – the one driving Republicans in private to say that Trump is done (or should be done, or will be done) is that Trump is a loser.
That Trump lost Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2018, bringing back Nancy Pelosi who secured not one, but two impeachments of the president; that he lost the White House in 2020; that he lost control of the Senate in January 2021 when Democrats swept both Georgia Senate seats, giving them control of that chamber; and that Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona again cost Republicans control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms. As Vince Lombardi, legendary gridiron coach of Green Bay and Washington, said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi would say Trump was a loser.
Trump is having none of it, and his iron resolve was on full display for those listening more closely when he gave his orations last weekend.
“Maybe he’s lost his step,” Trump said in evoking the musings of some Republicans. But, “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed than I ever was.”
The anger is palpable. The Trump 2023 brand joins his anger with the hottest culture war buttons he can press. Immigration, the open wound that is the southern border, the wall he will finish, the rapists and criminals who are flooding in and that he will keep out tomorrow. Immigration is his lead-off weapon.
Then promises of energy independence and oil forever. Utter hostility to electric vehicles and wind energy – especially if the windmills are offshore. No transgender women in sports. No way they are tolerated. A purge of woke content from school curricula, schoolbooks, school libraries, and school boards. Parents empowered to fire the principal of the schools their children attend; Trump says the parents can vote them out of their jobs.
Trump never goes far into the culture wars without conjuring up Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Trump cannot get enough of Hunter’s laptop and the criminality of the Bidens, their business dealings and their money. We can barely follow all the Trump twists and turns in this tale, but there is no mistake that Trump wants Hunter nailed and his father to bear the consequences.
Reprising his role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump said, in case we have not been paying attention, that we are on the brink on World War III. That Ukraine would not have happened if he had been president. That we could have a peace deal “in 24 hours.” Trump wants to call Putin and knows Putin will be waiting for that call.
Trump’s great loyalist, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was on the podium with Trump and put it this way after the event. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new? There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”
That’s the message Trump delivered to his base last weekend. And that’s how Trump intends to win.
Buried in Trump’s massive monologue was the core of what could be a winning message. “My mission is to secure a middle-class lifestyle for everyone. I did it before and I will do it again. And we will be respected in the world once again.”
Three powerful sentences which, coupled with the red meat of his anger and rage, mean that Trump is very much alive and kicking.
Leading athletes and medical experts push for medicinal cannabis in sport
Leading lawmakers, medical experts and athletes are pushing for therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain and injury
Basketball star Brittney Griner is one of the leading players of her generation. She jumped into the spotlight for serving a sentence for possession of cannabis oil in Russia.
It begs the question whether medicinal cannabis and athletes are a good mix. Well, many lawmakers, health experts and athletes around the world want to break down the stigmas associated with its use.
Many want to use Griner’s ordeal as motivation to change cannabis laws and therapeutic use exemptions in sports.
Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health has spoken closely with Dr. Peter Brukner who is a world-renowned Australian sports medicine clinician and researcher.
Brukner believes athletes should be able to compete in their field with medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t enhance their performance.
Brayshaw believes there are higher risks for athletes becoming addicted to anti-inflammatory and opioids. As opposed to any risks associated with taking medicinal cannabis.
He explains it enables athletes to function in a healthy way, pain free.
Overall, there is hope Griner’s case will break down stigma surrounding natural medicines and athletes.
In Australia, there are tens of thousands of new applications for medicinal cannabis every month.
There are also growing calls for countries to adopt therapeutic use exemptions in sport, including in the Australian Football League.
Why is China’s changing its strategy to handling the pandemic?
Changes to China’s COVID policies are coming thick and fast, much faster than many people anticipated given how strict the country has been in the last few years, the latest big announcement is around an app that people had to install on their phone
Then it tracked them when they travelled across the country, alerting them if they’ve been to a high risk COVID area, the government says that that app is now deactivated and people no longer have to have it installed on their phones.
It’s yet another indication of the change in China’s strategy to handling the pandemic.
We’ve seen changes related to quarantine, and also testing as well. And a real change in narrative from the authorities when talking about the virus and how dangerous it is. Now officially case numbers are dropping.
But that is largely due to the fact that much less testing is taking place, and we are seeing signs that in reality cases are surging.
There’s queues of people outside of pharmacies, queuing to get medication for colds and for fevers, and also self testing kits as well.
On social media, many people in China now saying that they have caught COVID For the first time, or that they know a number of people who have COVID When previously they didn’t know anyone at all.
So it’s clear that cases are rising, and this is coming just the month before the Chinese New Year holidays, which will take place at the end of January, traditionally a time when millions of people will travel across the country.
We would expect that to happen this year, as travel within China is now much easier.
So we would expect COVID cases to spread across the country talking to travel and is yet no sign of when the borders will open internationally.
Still very, very hard to get into China and very strict. When people do enter and the procedures they have to follow.
Maybe the government will wait and see how the first phase of reopening goes domestically, before thinking internationally?
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