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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Mélenchon, la dynamique qui peut tout changer

by Grégory Marin and Aurélien Soucheyre

Mélenchon, the Dynamic That Can Change Everything

Translated Thursday 13 April 2017, by Henry Crapo

Feverishness is rising among the supporters of Fillon and Macron in the business sector and in the media, and supporters of Le Pen are no exception to this rule. The breakthrough of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the polls? "It does not interest me," replied Marine Le Pen five days ago, on BFMTV.

Now tested in the polls for a second tour against Le Pen, and predicted to win against her, the candidate of "Insubmissive France", supported by the PCF and Ensemble!, seizes his place at the center of the debate. He now becomes the principal target of his adversaries, who struggle to discredit his program.

Jean Luc Melenchon, candidate of insubmissive France in the presidential election.

In Marseille, and on the Place de la République in Paris, Jean-Luc Mélenchon makes a campaign of ideas and provides details about his proposed measures in the world of labor: abrogation of the El Khomri law, increase of social security payments, ...

Photo: Nicolas Tavernier/Réa.

Up until now, the three favorites [1] in the polls were content to disparage the campaign of the candidate of insubmissive France [2], challenging only each other, directly or via the media. But the dynamics of the campaign of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, reinforced by polls that accredit the possibility of his being in third place, forced them to turn their glance far towards their left. Especially so since the candidate is now being tested for a second round duel against Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron. "Utopian", "unrealistic", announce the candidates of capital and their supporters. With just eleven days to go before the first round of the election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, now best placed on the left to disrupt the scenario written in advance by the liberals, has them worried. Because he places at the center of public concerns those social issues to which the liberal trio is unable to respond?

The liberal scenario is perturbed by the advances of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the polls.

The dynamics of "that-there" adversary in particular "doesn’t interest" Marine Le Pen. Three days after the question posed on BFM, she nevertheless replies to Le Figaro, who asked "How can one stop" the progress of the candidate of "Insubmissive France". The candidate of the far right responded with a shameless lie about the 100 billion euros that the candidate would spend (in reality, 100 billion is to be spent in public investments).

For all that, she is no more caricatural than some adversaries. François Fillon called him, in his Paris meeting at the Porte de Versailles, on Sunday, “the captain of the battleship Potemkin”. His aides were more explicit, in the wings. Bernard Debré, deputy in the party Les Républicains, said “Is it that you think that France wants to become communist?” And in le Voix du Nord, yesterday Emmanuel Macron called upon the same relaxed anti-communism, Mélenchon using, according to him, “exactly the words the communists used in the 1950’s” to prepare “the world order of Mr. Putin”.

So here we are with the vision of “Russian tanks on the Place de la Concorde”, projected on the big screens by the stock markets and the bosses of industry. For the president of the Medef, Pierre Gattaz, in the Parisien, to vote for Mélenchon (or Le Pen, or Hamon, he adds) is “ruin, despair and desolation, generalized poverty”. And les Echos goes on to qualify this apocalypse, yesterday: “Mélenchon, the new ’French risk’ ”.

“Millions of people recognize themselves in the values of the left”

The more that Jean-Luc Mélenchon climbs in the polls, the more his direct adversaries attack him, and themselves place him at the heart of the debate. While it’s always best to take the opinion polls with a grain of salt, their long-term convergence shows that the candidate of France insoumise has without a question become a credible candidate, who is upsetting the campaign. Proof of the dynamics setting in, Mélenchon was tested for a second tour against Marine Le Pen and against Emmanuel Macron. This is a first!

In 2012, as candidate of the Front de gauche, Mélenchon climbed to between 14% and 17% by mid-April, in a springtime bubble in the polls, then finished with 11% once the ballot boxes were emptied. But the context today is quite different. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is henceforth given third place, ahead of Fillon. In 2012, he remained far from a place in the second tour, far from François Hollande and from Nicolas Sarkozy, both polled at 27% to 30% in intentions to vote in the first tour. Back then, public opinion saw in Hollande a candidate capable of bringing the left to victory, and of governing on the left. “Millions of people today, when they identify themselves with the values of the left, make Mélenchon their first choice”, remarks Olivier Dartigolles, spokesman for the PCF. “It is a novel situation in the sense that, while Benoît Hamon won his primary on an orientation of rupture with the presidency of Hollande, he never managed to maintain that clarity, to say the least.”

The only candidate to propose a political program of social justice

For more than a year already, the wager of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been “Force builds on Force”. His subject is “to federate the people”, all the while affirming that he is “a man of the left”. “Finally, no one makes a mistake”, he likes to remind us. Yesterday, at the microphone of RTL, he summed up the situation this way: “If I am actually ahead of Mr.Fillon, then the whole argument, according to which the "useful vote" would be a vote for Mr. Macron, to avoid a duel between Fillon and Le Pen, falls to pieces.” The match is open, in the end. And in an extraordinary way, again, because Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the only one among the four “major” candidates to propose a politcal program of democratic renewal, of ecological transition, of social justice and a rupture with austerity. “Macron is a centrist, a liberal. People know what to expect. What’s more, he gave them a sledge-hammer blow to the head by announcing he intends to change the entire Labor Code by executive order,” he charged on Tuesday. “He is giving content to the word ’left’. He doesn’t brandish it like a slogan, but gives it back some real meaning”, says Clémentine Autain, spokes-woman for l’Ensemble, in appreciation.

And Mélenchon attracts voters well outside the ranks of those in 2012, on one hand being carried by a wave of sentiment “to get rid of” those formerly in government, also by his ecological and social program, and the increasing consciousness of the institutional crisis, which Holland and Fillon exhibited, each in his own way and time, by their use of the 49-3 emergency procedures in legislature, and in judicial affairs.

“In 2012, the people had had their full of Sarkozy. His rise in the polls during the final pre-election period gave credence to the ’useful vote’ for Hollande”, recalls Alexis Corbière, spokesman for Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “Studies show that 30% of Hollande’s electors had hesitated between him and Mélenchon. This time, I don’t think there is a candidate capable of capturing that sort of ’useful vote’.” And to insist, in a press interview in Marseille, on the fact that a vote for Mélenchon is not simply a vote capable of eliminating Le Pen, but “It is a vote of conviction, social, ecological, and democratic. It is a vote that can change the course of history”.

[1Le Pen, Macron, and Fillon

[2"Insoumise", in the slogan (and name for his campaign organisation) France insoumise, could also be translated by the adjective "rebellious"

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