Here’s why millions of French voters want hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon for president

Far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been surging in the polls of late - and appears to be a very real contender in the race for the Elysée palace. Here's why his supporters want him to be the next head of state.

Here's why millions of French voters want hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon for president
Photo: AFP
The most recent polls put Jean-Luc Mélenchon in fourth place at 18.5 percent, and that's only 5 percentage points behind current frontrunner Emmanual Macron. 
Mélenchon has performed well in the last two TV debates – a large factor in his surge in the polls – and will be no doubt hoping to repeat the trend in the last set of televised interviews on Thursday night. 
The 65-year-old seasoned politician, who heads his own movement “La France Insoumise” (Unbowed France), can count Pamela Anderson (and a bunch of other US actors) among his supporters. 
Past surveys have defined his typical voter as a man in his fifties who works in the public sector, most likely in Paris.
But why are his supporters voting for him? The Local spoke to dozens of his supporters at a rally this week in Paris. Here's a look inside their heads. 
A fresh start for France
“It's the necessary step to change the capitalist system, he's a socialist and ecological alternative,” said Etienne Almayrac, 26, a PhD student.
“He will be the last president of the 5th republic, he'll hold a people's vote for the 6th Republic,” added Ahmed Benabderrahmane, 36, an IT technician.
“The 6th Republic will mean a renegotiation of the social contract between citizens and those they elect and between citizen's themselves. For years the system has divided people, and for me this is the only way to end the division.”

Benjamin, a 31-year-old insurance agent in Paris, added: “I'm angry to see that things don't change. It's been over for a long time for all the old political class of the left and right; Fillon's affairs and Hamon, the socialist party candidate who isn't even supported by his own camp.” 
“To change the French government, get rid of everything that's rotten and start again at zero,” added Marie Laurence Harot, 66, a photographer.

A change from the current mess
“With Mélenchon, things will move, things need to change,” said Lena Lange-Berteaux, 21.
“He's not just protesting against everything that's going on, but trying to create something positive. He offers a positive version of 'we've had enough' which is 'let's get going then',” added Christine Duplaissy, 59, an office worker.
“Mélenchon has seen success this year because he has united people, activists, unions, those who wouldn't normally align themselves with a party. People have had enough and want to get rid of the system”
Jules Vanier, 35, an engineer, added: “What we need in the country right now is to fundamentally change the system and the constitution.”

“He's the only one that's proposing a real break with the kind of politics we've seen up to now, the so-called left who are right wing and a self-conscious right,” added Michel, a 68-year-old professor.
Equality and unity
“There's something from the French revolution that persists in Melenchon. An idea that the needs of the individual and the needs of the group need to be fulfilled,” said Louise Manncar an 84-year-old retiree.
Alexandre Gallosi, 30, a photographer, added: “I support Mélenchon to bring people together – unity between men and women, equality, union of people, the end of the divide between rich and poor.”
“There are thieves and those who want to divide people like Le Pen and Fillon and then there's bankers like Macron, they're all there to divide France.”
Erwin Lefevre, 69, a cameraman, added: “He corresponds to what I see as an egalitarian, social society.”

“We're for Mélenchon to carry a message of hope. Hope for what we want for politics in France, openness to all classes and equality,” said Antoine Canart, 24, a PhD student.
“The other candidates want to leave the system as it is. I'm dissappointed and I really want that to change,” he told The Local. 
“I'm supporting Mélenchon because for me the most important thing is transitioning energy and basing the economy on the environment,” said Leonie Chanteloup, 30, a lawyer.
Dimitri Touren, 22, a student, added: “Because he wants to make the environment the driver of political life.” 
Saving the left
“He's the only one to propose an alternative to the capitalist economy that we were born in and that we believe we can't escape from,” said Margeaux Velten, a 20-year-old student. 
“He's the best hope for the left. For living together without inequality. He gives back real meaning to the word 'left',” added Sara Brunie, another student. 
By Rose Trigg

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Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”