by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Friday, 1
April 2022
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16:00

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: France’s Corbyn takes on Macron

The socialist veteran is surging in the polls
by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
French leftist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon. Credit: Getty

How ornery have the French become? How much are they still willing to vote for the ‘least bad’ contender (read: Emmanuel Macron), rather than for someone they genuinely would like to become president — or, failing that, for a spoiler candidate whose disruptive success would at last send the angry message they feel nobody has been listening to?

This, ten days before the first round of a presidential election that’s still more uncertain than expected, is a question that’s being asked on both Right and the Left. Emmanuel Macron, a former minister in a Socialist Cabinet, won his current top job (and hopes to gain a five-year extension) by promising to be all things to all parties. He called it en Même Temps (at the same time) during his lightning campaign five years ago: he’d pick measures, and politicians, from both Right and Left, depleting established parties and stealing their political oxygen.

Only the extremes seem to appeal to France’s mood. On the Right, that’s Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, polling together 32% of the vote — 4 points above Emmanuel Macron. On the Left, the star of the 70-year-old Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Maduro and Putin supporter who’s running for the third time, has been steadily rising, to the point that the enthusiastic crowds who attend his rallies have taken to chanting “On va ga-gner! On va ga-gner!” (We’re going to win”).

Mélenchon, a former choirboy who became a state school French Lit teacher, is a rousing orator. A longtime member of the Socialist party (he was briefly a junior minister under PM Lionel Jospin in 2000), he became a machine politician in Essonne (South Paris) politics, which won him a seat in the Senate. He then veered Left, rising in opposition to a “reasonable” (he called it “compromised”) leadership and turning into a Corbyn figure in a Blairite-like party.

He then created a number of vehicles that have developed into his current party, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed). He has called for French withdrawal from Nato; shown sympathy for redrawing the borders of Crimea in favour of Russia; and his 2017 presidential platform demanded that France’s overseas départements of Guyane, Martinique and Guadeloupe join the Bolivarian Alliance created by Hugo Chavez in 2004.

And yet Mélenchon is increasingly seen as the only Left-wing vote utile, the candidate who could make it to the runoff. Even a week ago, this seemed impossible, but this week, at 15% in the polls, he stands third after Emmanuel Macron (28.5%) and Marine Le Pen (21%).

Éric Zemmour, who briefly reached 19%, has now fallen to fourth place at 10%, half a point ahead of Valérie Pécresse. Past pro-Putin statements, then an initial, reflexive refusal to admit Ukrainian refugees, have cost him dearly, while, by contrast, Mélenchon’s similar views were seemingly priced in from the start, and are disregarded now. Ségolène Royal, the former 2007 Socialist presidential candidate against Nicolas Sarkozy, and a woman with an eagle eye for the main chance, has declared for Mélenchon.

Voters who, from Chirac to Macron, cast their ballot to prevent a Le Pen from seizing power, now say they’ve had it with voting “with gritted teeth”. Mélenchon will be a first round choice for many of them, with a hopes of a surprise in the runoff.

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Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 months ago

He gets a mention in one of my Odes, Epigrams, & Further Sonnets, by Richard Craven:-

XXIV

Sonnet Concerning a Banlieue

Ivry-sur-Seine is difficult to love.

The revolution’s curdled here; St Just

has loaned his name to the tabac. Above,

the chimneys belch their Promethean dust

into the cold hard blank November sky.

The matchstick men from Mali and Algiers

trudge past the concrete cake mix, and the pie

of unfinished apartment blocks. No tears

were shed for beauty, no Lautréamont

has milked this abscess for its clotted crème.

La France Soumise spunked dry for Mélenchon’s

bijou apartment in the 10ième:

Versailles’ most elegantly velvet fist

replaced the Marquis with a communist.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Nice sonnet

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 months ago
Reply to  David Simpson

Merci beaucoup! It’s true, by the way. There actually is a tabac named after St Just in Ivry.

Last edited 3 months ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Jim le Messurier
Jim le Messurier
2 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Very classy, well done.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 months ago

Thanks v much indeed.

kevin austin
kevin austin
2 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I love this:
“The matchstick men” = Lowry
Ivry-sur-Seine is twinned with Bishop Auckland in County Durham, England.
I’ve always called that DREADFUL Kay Burley = Kay Burlesque.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 months ago
Reply to  kevin austin

I absolutely had Lowry in mind when I wrote the phrase, but didn’t know about Ivry’s twinning with Bishop Auckland. Thanks for that.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Excellent and beautifully droll if I may say so.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Thanks v much indeed!

János Klein
János Klein
3 months ago

If the opinion polls are to be believed, it looks like a re-run of 2017. Pecresse could still catch up and Zemmour shouldn’t be written off just yet, judging by his massive Trocadero rally last weekend.
The fact is, polls are highly unreliable especially now with all the government scandals emerging. I suppose a lot will depend on voter turnout…

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 months ago

Nothing is ever going to change until a major western country elects someone on the actual right wing to some powerful executive office. Until that happens, the NGOs will just continue sniggering behind their hands.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 months ago

The idea of voting for Macron through gritted teeth seems a bit fanciful. More like you’ll have to reach for the sick bag.

Isabelle Dubois
Isabelle Dubois
2 months ago

Macron is hated by most people in France by an overwhelming majority, people outside of France really need to understand this. His utter contempt for the people is unbelievable. There is absolutely nothing, but nothing, socialist about him. He is doing the same to France as Thatcher did to Britain – only worse, because those who came before him prepared the country for the total destruction of what it was about: namely, quality public services, especially Education and Healthcare. I lived in Britain under Thatcher and witnessed what she did to the country, especially Scotland where I lived; I am totally enraged at what Macron has been doing to France, and what he will do if (God or whoever forbid!) he is reelected. Think of us, please, us infuriated (and with good reason) French people if Macron should be reelected. He is hated, and I think there will be a lot of unrest in this country if he is reelected. I for one did not put a bulletin in the box for him to counter the National Front (which I loathe), and again this year, I, like so many others, will certainly not vote “for” him even to counter Le Pen again.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

I understand that in Kent a new party is being formed by Non-Marine hold knife like Underwriting Pen…