The great atomization of the electoral offer, to the right and to the left, could cause a surprise in the French presidential elections in April. The polls, for weeks, have detected a slow but steady rise in Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of France Insumisa (radical and populist left) and candidate for the Elysée of the Popular Union platform.
The rise of Mélenchon, 70 years old and a presidential candidate for the third time in his life, changes the paradigm of the elections. The most likely scenario that has been considered so far for the second round – and that the polls still favor – is a duel between President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen, as in 2017.
If instead of Le Pen the rival was Éric Zemmour, things would be similar. Both appeal to the ultra-nationalist and anti-immigration vote. For a time it was thought that the conservative Valérie Pécresse (of The Republicans) could qualify for the second round, but her support is on the decline.
Mélenchon insists on a non-NATO, non-aligned France, and his ambiguity with Putin is forgiven
The Mélenchon phenomenon is explained by the useful vote. The voters show a pragmatism that their leaders lack. There are six candidates from the left. In addition to Mélenchon, the socialist Anne Hidalgo, the communist Fabien Roussel, the environmentalist Yannick Jadot and two purely testimonial far-left leaders appear.
Despite his demagogic outbursts and marked histrionics, Mélenchon has pull because he is a good speaker, sharp and cultivated, and has experience. Some polls already place him third in the first round, with 14%, above Éric Zemmour and Valérie Pécresse, and approaching Le Pen, who obtained a maximum of 18%.
The Jadot green has not managed to take off (it is around 6%), partly because its opposition to nuclear energy is not very popular in the current geopolitical situation, with the war in Ukraine and the need for energy self-sufficiency, which in France it is embodied by its powerful atomic sector.
The communist Roussel is campaigning well and some polls give him 4%, more than Hidalgo, who does not exceed 3%. The mayor of Paris runs the risk of becoming the gravedigger of the Socialist Party.
If it reaches the second round, a sector of voters from Marine Le Pen and Zemmour could support Mélenchon
Against this background, Mélenchon is a strong option, a very clear, total alternative to Macron. The Popular Union candidate made a show of force on Sunday, gathering tens of thousands of people at a street rally in Paris. It would not be uncommon for a sector of Marine Le Pen and Zemmour voters to support Mélenchon in order to kick his hated Macron out of the Elysée.
One of Mélenchon’s arguments is to oppose Macron’s announced pension reform, which aims to raise the retirement age from the current 62 to 65. The leftist candidate wants to raise the minimum wage to 1,400 euros per month. He makes no secret that, to finance his expensive program, he will have to raise taxes on higher income taxpayers.
The leader of France Insumisa is in favor of leaving NATO and that Paris practices a non-aligned international policy
Mélenchon’s rise indicates that his past ambiguity towards Vladimir Putin is not taking its toll on him. The leader of France Insumisa is in favor of leaving NATO and that Paris practices a non-aligned international policy. These kinds of messages still have their audience in France, despite the reality of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Mélenchon thrives on disaffected layers like the old yellow vests. To ingratiate himself with them, he proposes to amnesty those who were convicted and compensate those who lost their eyes or suffered other injuries in the police repression of the demonstrations. The candidate poses the elections as a “social referendum” to avoid “authoritarian drift” and the reinforced ultraliberal project that, according to him, would mean a second five-year term for Macron