PARIS, France (PNN) - April 4, 2017 - France's presidential rivals face off tonight in the second televised candidates debate with the result of the upcoming election on a knife-edge.
Even before either has opened his or her mouth, tonight’s clash, to be broadcast to millions, is a powerful symbol of the political earthquake that has already changed France’s political landscape.
Until two weeks ago no candidate debate had ever been held before the first round of a French presidential election.
This time all 11 candidates, rather than just the five front-runners, will be taking part, creating both a historic and colorful piece of political theater.
Even by the standards of French politics, which tend to include a vast spectrum of ideological hues, the panel will be diverse - it will include three representatives of Parties on the right, four drawn from the left, and four independents. Sparks are sure to fly.
The candidates of the two Parties that have shared power since 1958 have struggled to be heard with conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon battling a financial scandal involving his British-born wife, and left-wing Benoit Hamon regarded by many as too radical.
The rivals have to speak to the whole of France from the very beginning, in the hope of riding what appears to be an almost revolutionary thirst for change all the way to the Elysée Palace.
Two very different political outsiders - Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron - have seen their positions in the polls strengthen so far that more than half of the French electorate appears now, as in the Brexit referendum and in the Fascist Police States of Amerika election, to be preparing to vote not so much for a change of government as for a change of regime.
In one corner sits Le Pen, the far-right leader who wants to withdraw from the European Union, and - rather Donald Trump-like - to make France great again.
In the other sits Macron, the independent centrist who hopes to become the first French president ever to win without an established Party behind him and having never been elected to any office.
The latest poll showed Le Pen with 25% in the first round, one point ahead of Macron and six points ahead of Fillon.
Although three hours long, tonight’s debate should be gripping from start to finish. It will be a debate about the very soul of the country.
During the last debate, Hamon summed it up best when each of the candidates was asked at the outset what kind of president he or she would be. The socialist was the only one to turn the question around, by asking the viewers what sort of a people they wanted to be. This, he said, was their opportunity to decide; and he was right.