French far left: Block road for Le Pen

Last time around, it took the French left until the final stretches of the electoral campaign to issue a clear voting instruction to its voters. Are we heading for the same scenario in 2022? [European Parliament]

With five months to go before the first round of the French presidential election, EURACTIV France spoke to French far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s campaign manager, MEP Manuel Bompard.

Last time around, it took the French far-left until the final stretches of the electoral campaign to issue clear voting instructions to the electorate to vote against the far right. Are we heading for the same scenario in 2022?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France’s far-left (La France Insoumise), has been criticised for not giving his backers clear voting instructions to vote against far-right Le Pen in the second round of the French Presidential elections.

This stance makes it more difficult for centrist candidates like Emmanuel Macron to prevail in the second round against far-right Le Pen.   

In 2017, the absence of voting instructions on the evening of the first round of French presidential elections prompted a backlash. Mélenchon was unclear and just said on his YouTube channel,  “What I’m going to vote, I’m not going to tell you, you don’t need to be a great clerk to guess what I’m going to do.”

It was not until 30 April, a week before the second round, that Mélenchon called on his voters not to make “the terrible mistake” and vote for Le Pen’s party so as not to push “the country [towards] a general conflagration”.

If he does not qualify for the second round, Mélenchon said on French television last March, that he would not give voting instructions because they “have no weight”. “I will never take the initiative to say, ‘do this, do that’ again,” he said.

Bompard told EURACTIV France that despite what people may have said, “Jean-Luc Mélenchon has always been very clear in every election that no votes should go to the Rassemblement National”. 

“For the moment, our objective is to be in the second round,” his campaign manager Bompard stressed, qualifying the commitment made by Mélenchon. 

Asked by EURACTIV about the party’s stance in the second round this time, he replied: “To answer this question is to lock ourselves into a second-round that does not exist”.

‘Polling frenzy’

The latest poll by Elabe puts Mélenchon on between 6 and 7% of the vote  – depending on which candidate is selected by centre-right Les Républicains, and assuming Éric Zemmour stands.

Zemmour is a French far-right essayist who is expected to run in the presidential election. Officially, he has not announced it yet, but in the polls, he is performing well. 

“We have a problem in France with polls,” said Bompard, remarking that this “polling frenzy” gives the feeling that “a possibility of access to the second round for a candidate like ours is very far away”.

“The ability to make it to the second round depends on our ability to mobilise the people who today are wondering whether to go and vote”, he said, citing young and working people.

Finally, to officially participate in the election, candidates must obtain the signatures of 500 elected representatives of the Republic (deputies, senators, mayors, etc.). These sponsorships must come from at least 30 different departments or overseas territories. For the previous election, Mélenchon obtained 805.

But the exercise is not always easy, especially for “political groups that do not rely on an extremely large network of elected representatives”, explained Bompard.

For the time being, he said that France Insoumise had exceeded “more than half of the objective”.

Asked about the possibility of an alliance for the left parties, Bompard said there were many political differences. It was not a “question of ego, unlike what we sometimes hear”.

(Mathieu Pollet | EURACTIV France)

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