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France's Great National Debate is "skewed", says chief organiser
France’s Great National Debate has been distorted into nothing but a "communications’ operation", according to the president of the Commission of National Public Debate (the CNDP).
Chantal Jouanno, the former sports minister and head of the CNDP, on Friday denounced the method chosen by the government in the Great National Debate with members of the Yellow Vest protest movement and citizens across the country.
In a move to listen the grievances of the protesters – who have been demonstrating every Saturday since 17 November – President Emmanuel Macron proposed two months of town hall style discussions, where issues ranging from taxes to public services can be raised by the protesters themselves.
There is also an internet component to the debate, which is to be headed by the CNDP.
"The platform was ready, but they redid everything,” Jouanno told LCI television Friday morning.
“We didn't plan a mere communications’ operation but a real debate, in which a digital platform would remain completely open for anyone to discuss ideas on any topic,” she explains.
'The principle of debate'
Jouanno, who remains CNDP president despite resigning as the debate’s chief coordinator after a scandal over her salary, denounced the grand debate in its current format. It is organised as a questionnaire on four themes, which she says limits participants in what they can talk about and what questions they can ask the government.
“The principle of a public debate is not to put questions to the French people; it is for the French people to ask you – the government – questions. They are the ones who need to express themselves and the important issues for them,” she stresses.
As it stands, Jouanno says the debate so far seems more like a consultation between the government and citizens. And many Yellow Vests agree.
Plummeting popularity halted
Since the Great National Debate began, the popularity of Macron has already increased, according to the latest BVA poll released Friday.
Surveys conducted by the firm showed the president's popularity dropped by 15 points between June and November 2018, continuing the steady decline that followed the post-election highs of around 60 percent. In just the past month, his rating has gone up for four points.