French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Jean-Luc Mélenchon

The leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party is making his third bid for the French presidency. Here's what you need to know about him.

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Jean-Luc Mélenchon
Presidential candidate of French left-wing party La France Insoumise (LFI) Jean-Luc Melenchon poses prior to take part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, on February 6, 2022. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

1 He’s got a lot of political experience – Despite his preferred image as an ‘outsider’ Mélenchon has among the most experience of all the candidates in terms of the number of roles he has performed – he’s been a local and regional councillor, an MP, government minster, a Senator and an MEP since he won his first election in 1983. 

He had his first presidential run in 2012 then formed his own political party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) in February 2016 and ran in the 2017 election – finishing 4th with 19 percent of the vote. This time he is again running as the LFI candidate. 


2 He was born in Tangiers – Morocco was at that time was a French colony and Mélenchon’s parents worked as a teacher and postmaster in the Tangiers international zone, before moving to France when Jean-Luc was 11. 

3 He’s got a temper – in 2018 he was placed under police investigator for shoving a prosecutor who was supervising a raid on Mélenchon’s offices. The party was at the time under investigation in relation to political funding. 

Raiding the homes and offices of politicians who are under investigation is common practice in France – it aims to ensure they don’t destroy documents – and Mélenchon said he did not object to the raid, but to the manner of the officers who carried it out.

He blamed his  “Mediterranean” origin for his tendency to lose his temper and said there was “no need to make a big deal of it”. 

4 He can be in two places at one – OK not really, that’s impossible, but during his 2017 election campaign he made good use of holograms which enabled him to appear before his supporters simultaneously at rallies in Paris and Lyon. 

5 He’s a controversial figure – he has repeatedly been accused of anti-Semitism and has also been accused of  spreading conspiracy theories. He’s on record as saying that the former leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, should not have apologised for anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

His long-standing policy of bringing France out of Nato has also raised question in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He’s also no fan of much of the media, lashing out at individual journalists as ‘fascists’, ‘spies’ or ‘CIA agents’ (he’s never levelled any of those accusations at The Local, but it’s highly possible that he’s not a reader).

He is a fan of immigrants though, saying “Today as yesterday, I am delighted that France is a mix of races and all the children are our children.”  

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.