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