Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Will the crisis weaken (even a little more) political speech?

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Emmanuel Macron prays to restore confidence in politicians. – Gonzalo Fuentes / AP / SIPA

  • The executive is regularly criticized for its management of the coronavirus.
  • The government pays in particular for the erratic communications of some of its members on the wearing of masks or tests.
  • Could the crisis increase French people’s distrust of politics?

Since the start of the crisis, the executive has called for national unity. But the government remains regularly criticized for its management of the coronavirus. The executive multiplies media interventions in an attempt to stem the mistrust of part of the French. But while the popularity ratings of Emmanuel Macron and Edouard Philippe are on the rise, confidence in the government to deal with the epidemic has declined in most recent polls.

“There is a block effect behind the executive, which is classic during crises, but that does not prevent criticism of certain decisions taken,” said Frédéric Dabi, deputy director general of Ifop. Traditionally, distrust of politicians is built on two criticisms: the lack of results and the feeling of deception. ” 73% of French people believe that the government has hidden certain information, according to the latest survey by the institute on April 2, against 45% in late January. “It is not conspiratorial, but some have the feeling that the government is sailing by sight, that the speech on the epidemic fluctuates, resumes the pollster. Certain paradoxical injunctions have rooted a feeling of deception for French people who are today ininformed. “

From municipal to mask

Frédéric Dabi mentions the wearing of masks, screening, or the erratic communications of certain members of the government, such as the call to go to work in the fields of the Minister of Agriculture in the middle of confinement. On social networks, the videos of these sometimes contradictory statements are widely relayed and question. Why former Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn said on January 24 that
“The risk of importing from Wuhan [était] almost nothing ” ? Why was the first municipal round kept only two days before the start of general containment? Why the authorities
Do they encourage the use of the generalized mask today after having advised against it for a long time?

“The government has no choice but to listen to the scientific word. But it’s moving at high speed, so it’s hard to get a head start. Who knew, from January, that we would be in such a crisis? Who knows, today, how things will develop? Asks Erwan Balanant. The deputy MoDem of Morbihan reminds in passing that many doctors and other scientists were themselves mistaken about the magnitude of the epidemic. “The government will not be able to hide behind the opinion of scientific experts, because for the French, politicians consult, but it is they who make the decisions”, nuances Frédéric Dabi.

A “structural” distrust

“There have been some blunders or blunders from the government on the masks or the tests, which forced us to rectify things, but nobody can blame them for having chosen transparency. This is not always easy in crisis communication, “said Jean-Louis Touraine, MP for Lyon. The elected LREM, also a doctor, however fears an increased distrust after the crisis. “National unity will be maintained at first, but we will not escape a much more severe phase afterwards. The crisis will leave its mark and will force us to make deep changes ”.

Historian Jean Garrigues also expects criticism of the opposition’s handling of the virus, with a view to 2022. But remains cautious about a more general impact on public speaking. “The climate of mistrust vis-à-vis policies is more structural than the simple management of this health crisis. It is based mainly on the disappointments vis-à-vis the policies pursued for thirty or forty years concerning mass unemployment and social inequalities, which we have seen reappear with the “yellow vests” “.

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