French left tries ‘people’s primary’ to pick presidential candidate

A four-day "people's primary", to pick a left-wing candidate for the French presidency from a divided and squabbling field, ends Sunday with doubts remaining that a unifying figure on the left will emerge.

A sticker of French left-wing candidate to the
A sticker of French left-wing candidate to the "people's primary" presidential contest Christiane Taubira is worn on the coat of a supporter as she visits the vineyard of Chateau la Tuilere in Saint-Ciers-de-Canesse, near Bordeaux on January 28, 2022, while campaigning ahead of the April 2022 presidential election. - Multiple left-wing presidential candidates are set to be judged in the "people's primary" contest designed to reduce left-wing presidential candidates. A total of 467 000 people have signed up to take part in the online vote which will see seven designated candidates, five professional politicians and two civil society, ranked on a scale from "very good" to "inadequate". But three major candidates already planed to ignore the result. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

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

Whoever wins the best grades average would be expected to rally all the other candidates and their voters behind them, giving the left a fighting change to unseat President Emmanuel Macron in the April election.

But the exercise, initiated by political activists including environmentalists, feminists and anti-racism groups, has been dogged by
serious drawbacks.

The biggest is the upfront refusal by leading candidates Jean-Luc Melenchon, a hard-left politician, Yannick Jadot, a Green, and Socialist Anne Hidalgo to pay any attention to its result.

“As far as I’m concerned, the popular primary is a non-starter and has been for a while,” Jadot said Saturday, while Melenchon has called the initiative “obscure” and “a farce”.

The best-placed politician to win the grassroots endorsement is former Socialist justice minister Christiane Taubira, who has said she would accept the primary’s verdict.

A win Sunday for the well-liked Taubira could prompt her to declare a formal bid for the presidency.
But analysts would not rule out that  Melenchon, Jadot or Hidalgo could still emerge as the winner despite their rejection of the primary, which could lead to more confusion.
Polls currently predict that all left-wing candidates will be eliminated in the first round of presidential voting in April.
Macron, who has yet to declare his candidacy for re-election, is the favourite to win according to surveys, with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen the likely runner-up.
But pollsters warn that the political landscape remains volatile, with the vote’s outcome very difficult to call.

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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.