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French left-wing parties attempt to unite under ‘people’s primary’

France's multiple left-wing presidential candidates are set to be judged in a "people's primary" contest starting Thursday designed to reduce the crowded field.

French left-wing parties attempt to unite under 'people's primary'
Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

A total of 467,000 people have signed up to take part in the online vote which will see five professional politicians and two civil society candidates ranked on a scale from “very good” to “inadequate”.

The winner is set to be announced on Sunday, but the whole exercise looks doomed to fail given that hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, Greens candidate Yannick Jadot and Socialist contender Anne Hidalgo plan to ignore the result.

“There are better things to do 70 days from the first round of voting than an obscure primary,” Melenchon told supporters during a political meeting in Bordeaux this week.

The vote will give a snapshot of opinion on the left, however, and may boost the chances of former Socialist justice minister Christine Taubira, who is seen as the most likely candidate to be endorsed.

READ ALSO Who’s who in the crowded field of candidates in the presidential election

Melenchon, a former Trotskyist who heads La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, is currently polling the strongest in the flagging left-wing field at around 10 percent ahead of the first round of voting on April 10th.

Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, is on around three percent and Jadot on five, meaning all three would be eliminated and fail to make the second-round run-off vote.

President Emmanuel Macron is currently seen as the favourite to win the April 24th election, according to surveys, but analysts warn that the vote remains highly unpredictable.

READ ALSO Why the French left has declined into electoral irrelevance

France’s Socialist party, which was in power under president Fran├žois Hollande just five years ago, has seen its support disintegrate under pressure from Macron’s centrist political movement and shifts in public opinion.

Jobs, security and immigration are seen as top of voters’ concerns.

Hollande, who left office with catastrophic approval ratings, briefly sparked rumours he might be eyeing a comeback last weekend when he wondered aloud if “another candidate would serve a purpose?” during a discussion with schoolchildren.

“A former president can very well do politics again, and it has happened, be a candidate in the presidential election,” Hollande said.

His office moved quickly afterwards to clarify that he would not make a bid this year.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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