Anne Hidalgo at the microphone of Jean-Jacques Bourdin for the morning of BFM, Thursday, December 23. Valérie Pécresse traveling to Ussel in Corrèze, Friday 24. Like the Socialist and LR candidates, the candidates for the Elysee occupied the political field until the last minute before Christmas. And, from the first days of 2022, the same will be at work. The ecologist Yannick Jadot is due to go to Bordeaux on January 5 to meet the youth, and Valérie Pécresse will be the day before in Île-de-France for a trip on the theme of violence against women.
→ ANALYSIS. Covid-19: faced with the Omicron variant, the executive remains on its line for Christmas
To end the year well and to start on the hats of wheels the news is in principle one of the imposed figures of a presidential campaign. Except that this year, the health situation has upset all the scenarios outlined in the staffs. Omicron variant could become majority in France between Christmas and New Year, according to government spokesman Gabriel Attal. The peak of the wave is expected at the end of January 2022, which could completely upset a calendar already very constrained by the early dates of the poll, April 10 and 24.
No big meeting in January
“For the moment we are not changing anything in terms of travel and we are basing ourselves on a gauge of 350 people for public meetings as was the case at the first ‘forum of possibilities’ in Laon on December 11”, specifies Delphine Batho, spokesperson for Yannick Jadot. “Then, we will adapt according to the situation with, in the worst case, virtual meetings. ” Valérie Pécresse’s team is still counting on a very sustained pace of travel and events. The stake is to maintain the dynamic which carries the candidate since her victory at the LR congress in early December.
In view of the situation, the organization of a big meeting at the beginning of the year seems excluded. Those of Nicolas Sarkozy, Porte de Versailles on January 14, 2007, and François Hollande, at Le Bourget on January 22, 2012, had been a key stage in their victory. It will certainly be necessary to do without this year or so later, in February.
On the other hand, the parties are betting on digital tools or new forms of campaign animation, without revealing more for the moment. “We are already successful in digital, we will strengthen this presence”, explains evasively a manager of Anne Hidalgo’s team. The influence of Éric Zemmour’s supporters on social networks and the know-how of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who held virtual meetings in 2017, can in this context be real assets.
“No question of putting democracy on hold”
However, no one envisions a campaign without field activities, towing, market tours, public meetings. “We are not planning to give up travel, there is no question of putting democracy on hold”, assures Delphine Batho. “A campaign without physical commitment is impossible”, slice LREM deputy Sacha Houlié, one of the pillars of Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign.
For the probable future candidate, “We will have to imagine outdoor meetings, find new ideas, but an entirely digital campaign would be disastrous for participation”, abounds his colleague Jean-Baptiste Moreau, LREM deputy of Creuse. “In rural areas like mine, people don’t use social networks much”, he emphasizes. The fear of the virus had retained at home the voters in the municipal elections of 2020, and the lack of motivation for the local institutions had generated a record abstention in the departmental and regional of 2021. “The risk this time would be that the citizens say to themselves that the gambles are already made”, worries Sacha Houlié.
Due to European news, with a speech by President Macron in Strasbourg on January 19 to mark the French presidency of the Council of the Union, January is not envisioned as a firing window for the Macron rocket. The majority are therefore preparing for a lightning but impactful campaign of five or six weeks.
Cancellation of vows ceremonies
The many LREM deputies who thought they would take advantage of January to prepare the ground, however, are worried about the cancellation of the vows ceremonies. “In my constituency of Vienne, which has around 35 municipalities, these meetings at the start of the year are an opportunity for me to reach 6,000 to 7,000 people, it’s colossal”, testifies Sacha Houlié. “They are an opportunity to campaign before the campaign, their cancellation is not a good thing”, adds Jean-Baptiste Moreau who, like all his colleagues, will have to chew on his brakes.
→ EXPLANATION. Covid-19: understand everything about the Omicron variant, which is sweeping over France
The fact remains that in substance, the start of the electoral campaign risks being completely swallowed up by the epidemic context, with in particular the bill on the health pass which will occupy parliamentarians in the first half of January. It will be very difficult in these conditions for Emmanuel Macron’s opponents to impose their themes.