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French presidential election 2012

Thousands rally in Toulouse for hard-left candidate Mélenchon

Bruno Martin/Reuters

France’s hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon scored a second presidential campaign victory on Thursday night with a monster election rally in the southern city of Toulouse. But he is keeping François Hollande guessing over whether his supporters would join a Socialist-led government.

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As many as 70,000 red-flag-waving supporters defied rain and packed the centre of Toulouse, according to Mélenchon’s Left Front.

Police confirmed that the city’s historic Capitole square was packed with 20,000 people but said it was impossible to tell how many thronged the surrounding streets.

Supporters from across south-west France travelled to the city in about 110 coaches to hear the former Socialist minister call for French to leave the Nato military alliance and declare a “sixth republic”.

A bomb scare phoned to police when three-quarters of the crowd had already dispersed proved to be a hoax, police announced Friday.

Mélenchon, whose supporters boast of his rhetorical skills, demanded that Nicolas Sarkozy account for the “misery” and “ignorance” he claimed the incumbent has spread during his five years in office.

"Perhaps our programme is not realistic by your accountant's norms, but it is realistic under ours, and ours are called to the right to live our lives!" he declared.

But there will be no blank cheque for Hollande and the Socialists, his allies say.

“We’d like a political accord to be possible … we’d like the political conditions for our participation in a government to exist,” Mélenchon spokesperson Clémentine Autain told French television.

But she went on to accuse Hollande of proposing an austerity programme and said that the movement could not agree to such a policy.

Hollande took his campaign to the deprived banlieues on the outskirts of France's big cities on Friday in an attempt to rallly working-class support.

In Vaulx-en-Velin, near Lyon, he pledged to improve services, education, jobs and housing and described himself as "seriously on the left, for the serious left".

Regional officials have given Mélenchon’s campaign permission to hold a rally on a beach in Marseille on 14 April, the Left Front announced Friday. The city council, controlled by Sarkozy’s UMP, had refused permission but the prefecture has agreed, the movement said.

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