Mélenchon pursues Le Pen as Front National campaign kicks-off

Communist-backed Left-Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his far-right rival, the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, took to the legislative election campaign trail on Friday in the rundown former mining consitutency of Hénin-Beaumont causing a major headache for campaign organisers. 

Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Both candidates are to go head-to-head in the battle to represent the town near the northern city of Lille in June’s legislative elections and made an effort to avoid each other as they trawled for votes in the local market.

“Is he to going to throttle me, or bite me?” asked Le Pen as she moved through the crowd to shouts of “Thank you Marine” and Go, Marine”.

While Mélenchon came out punching. “I have gone into places where she cannot go, to factories where they would cut her into little pieces,” he said. “She only enters people’s homes through the radio and TV not because of her supporters.”

The election is seen as a litmus test for Le Pen, after she won almost 18 per cent of votes in the recent presidential election against 11 per cent for Mélenchon. In 2007’s legislative elections, Le Pen was beaten into second place in the constituency by the socialist candidate.

On Thurday the Rassemblement Bleu Marine, which includes Le Pen’s Front National, unveiled its campaign with a repeat of the message pumped out during the presidential election  namely the only true opposition is the Front National.

The party hopes to make gains at the expense of the mainstream UMP party which, after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in the presidential election, is undergoing an internal battle for control between former prime minister François Fillon and general secretary Jean-François Copé.

The Rassemblement is fielding 571 candidates of whom 281 are women. Spokesman for the group, Florian Philippot said it aimed to have between 150-200 candidates in second round run-offs in the June elections.

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