“Third Man” Mélenchon can no longer be ignored

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the radical Left Front's presidential candidate, has gained four percentage points in two weeks in opinion polls, a result that would see him take the third spot in the first of the two round vote for France's head of state.

He would win 15 percent of the first round on April 22, the LH2/Yahoo poll suggested, overtaking far-right Marine Le Pen who was on 13.5 percent.

The same poll gave Socialist Francois Hollande victory in the first round with 28.5 percent of the vote, against 27.5 percent for incumbent right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy. For the May 6 second round vote, Hollande would garner 54 percent and Sarkozy 46 percent. Hollande has lost one point since March 18, while Sarkozy has gained one.

Mélenchon's success suggests his radical leftwing programme and moves to steer Hollande's agenda left are having an impact.

The Socialists have already responded to Mélenchon's rising star by proposing a 75 percent top income-tax rate. Last weekend Arnaud Montebourg, Hollande's "spécial représentative," said he believed it would be possible to 'negotiate with Jean-Luc Mélenchon' when it came to legislative elections in June. When pressed by journalists on Thursday, former Socialist labor minister Martine Aubrey said that yes, communists in a future Socialist-led government were a distinct possibility.

"The Socialists don't know what to do," said François Delapierre, head of Mélenchon's campaign. "Their strategy was 'let's ignore him' but they are now forced to change that."

Former socialist Mélenchon, who drew 120,000 people to a rally in Paris on March 18 and has attracted thousands to local events around the country since his campaign started, is planning to intensify mass public meetings with one a day planned until the vote. Up to 40,000 people were expected at a rally in Toulouse on Friday.

The Left Front (Front de Gauche) is an alliance of the Communist Party and Left Party, which in turn is formed of former Socialists, people who hadn't been members of a political party before and dissidents from the Green Party. They first stood in the 2009 European elections.

Their program calls for control over the banks, a completely new relationship based on "solidarity" between France and other European countries, "ecological planning" and dismantling NATO.

The Left Front calls for stronger workers' rights, new powers for workers "to pre-empt" or "requisition" plants faced with closure, a ban on lay-offs for companies that have paid dividends to shareholders and measures to make it unattractive to relocate industries to countries where the cost of labor is lower.

Fears that Mélenchon, a former teacher and government minister, may cut into the Socialist vote appear unfounded. Overall the Left vote has never been higher and Hollande is seen as comfortably defeating Sarkozy in the second round of the elections expected on April 5, when Mélenchon's supporters will rally against the detested incumbent.

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  • Melenchon's campaign has really caught the public imagination here in France. It was unthinkable merely 6 months ago to think that the Front du Gauche could be in third place in the first round of Presidential elections, but we think we might just pip the FN, it will be close.
    What the campaign has done is shift the whole debate to the Left, the Socialist Party- who will probably win the Presidency, have had to dust off their old ideas of equality, investment, renewable energy policy and state intervention in the economy to deal with an attack from the Left.

    The key however is not the Presidentials but the legislative elections, we need to boost the number of Assembly members from the Left, which ahve been gradually falling with the slow demise of the Communist vote. A strong presence in the Assembly will keep radical solutions on the agenda and keep a Socialist Government on their toes.

    By the way just a thank you for keeping People's World online, when all we hear are the political insanity of the Republican Primaries, which I have to say for European ears sounds like amphetamine fuelled cavemen beating their hairy chests, its great to read a voice of sanity.

    Posted by Pete Shield, 04/20/2012 1:02pm (2 years ago)

  • We never know, a surprise might happen and Mélenchon could be in the 2nd round.... Lots of French agree with him and it will be a good thing if he was elected. There are some articles in English in the Guardian that explain more in detail Mélenchon policies. He has what France need and he's the most progressive.

    Posted by Aurel, 04/16/2012 4:26pm (2 years ago)

  • The program or manifest of the left wing coalition is true to the sprits of glorious past of France: French revolution,and Paris Commune. Unfortunately the glorious spirits of France had been lost in recent years but I hope that they will be at leat partially recovered by this election campaigns. France does not need the facist Sarcozy or the greatest crook in the person of Dominique Strau-Kahn (DSK), who headed the IMF until recently but did not anything to reform this capitalist institution while commiitting dispicable sex scandals. The socialist party has been corrput thanks to the previous presidential candidate, ex wife of Hollande, and Hollande has to change its policies: it should get rid of its Nato participation, and let the corrput and bankrupt banks such as BNP Paribus, Siciete General and Credi Agricole to disappear while not damaging the interest of small depositors and businesses. Without these crooks, French economy will become more solid. Alos there are great needs to orient her economy to manufacturing, which is the source of wealth as Marx has proven in his Capital and other writings.

    Posted by kotoko, 04/09/2012 9:13am (2 years ago)

  • Great article. Two comments:

    1. There appears to be an error in the date given in the last paragraph.

    2. People in the USA do not always understand that the tactics of the left differ according to the specifics of the political system of each country, and other contextual factors. France has a system with a powerful presidency, as does the United States, but has no "Electoral College" and, crucially important, has run-off elections for the presidency. This is why the French Communists and their allies can push their own candidate full blast without worry that it will play into the hands of the right wing incumbent. There would only have been a problem if the communists had somehow managed to take so many votes away from Hollande that the socialist candidate would not have made it to the primary (creating a runoff between Sarkozy and, perhaps, the ultra-right, anti immigrant candidate of the National Front, Marine Le Pen). Since clearly that is not a possibility, the popular support for Melenchon is very positive.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 04/06/2012 6:15pm (2 years ago)

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