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French left pick ex justice minister in ‘people’s primary’ vote

A four-day 'people's primary' on Sunday picked former justice minister Christiane Taubira as the favourite to lead the French left's presidential election campaign, but doubts remained that she can win wider support as a unifying figure.

French left pick ex justice minister in 'people's primary' vote
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

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

Taubira, who had entered the contest as the favourite, emerged as the only candidate with a “better than good” ranking.

Next came the Green party’s Yannick Jadot, hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, Euro MP Pierre Larrouturou, followed by Socialist Anne Hidalgo who is the mayor of Paris.

The exercise, initiated by political activists including environmentalists, feminists and anti-racism groups, was to foster the emergence of a candidate capable of rallying all the other hopefuls and their voters behind them, giving the left a fighting change to unseat President Emmanuel Macron in the April election.

But the primary has been dogged by serious drawbacks.

The biggest was the upfront refusal by leading candidates Melenchon, Jadot and 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”.

Taubira, however, said from the start she would accept the primary’s verdict which analysts said could now prompt her to declare a formal bid for the presidency.

“We want a united left, we want a strong left and we have a great road in front of us,” Taubira told activists after the result Sunday, adding she would now call on the other candidates to “create unity”.

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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PROTESTS

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.

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