French politics

French far-left leader Mélenchon 'proposes' 2022 bid for presidency

The leader of France’s far-left party France Unbowed, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has said he will run for president in 2022 – if he gets 150,000 signatures of support from citizens. His announcement sparked criticism from many MPs, including from his side of the political spectrum, who denounced a "selfish" move that would divide the left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left party France Unbowed, (La France Insoumise) in 2017
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left party France Unbowed, (La France Insoumise) in 2017 REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who stood in the 2012 and 2017 presidential elections, announced on TF1 television that he would run again in 2022 if he gets the 150,000 signatures.

National coordinator of the France Unbowed party (La France Insoumise, LFI) and MP in the north of France, Adrien Quatennens reported on Monday that Mélenchon had already garnered nearly 50,000 signatures on the online platform.

"All those people who criticise him, and say 150,000 votes are not enough, we’ll be watching them. When they’ve got their results, we’ll see what happens," he told public radio France Info.

Why 150,000 signatures?

Mélenchon says the number is not chosen randomly. It refers to the democratic process which requires each candidate to have 500 signatures from elected officials in order to launch a campaign.

His party has put forward a bill to parliament which proposes to collect the 500 mayors as well as 150,000 citizen signatures. It has not yet been signed into law.

"I support the idea that citizens should also be able to validate their candidate," he says.

According to recent opinion polls by Ifop-Fiducial for Le Journal de Dimanche, Mélenchon has slipped in popularity since his angry outburst, caught on camera, in 2018 when his offices were raided during an inquiry into illegal campaign funding.

He was at around 19.58 percent approval rating in 2017, which put him in fourth place in the presidential race.

But today, the poll puts him at only around 15 percent of voter intentions if he were to be the main left-wing contender -- far behind President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

"I don’t think going about it this way will help him win the presidential election," said former leader François Hollande.

Members of Mélenchon’s party have said that he intends to tackle abstentionism, by presenting himself as a “candidate who is close to the people, and who provides solutions to social, environmental and democratic crises."

Cold response from 'comrades'

However, his announcement has divided opinion among MPs, including leftists, who do not see Mélenchon as the man to bring together and represent the various parties.

EELV Green party spokesman Alain Coulombel criticised Mélenchon for his timing.

"In this situation with the major social and health crisis, frankly popular opinion is not focused on who will be candidate in 2022!"

Fabien Roussel, leader of the French communist party also pointed to Mélenchon’s ill-timed announcement.

"Jean-Luc Mélenchon has made his choice... The communists will make their choice in their own good time. For the moment, the priority is to deal with the pandemic, to fight on and defend our citizens," he said.

The socialist party accused Mélenchon, who split from their ranks in 2008, of being selfish and effectively "rolling out the red carpet for Macron".

"If the left and the greens want to win to win, they must work together," socialist leader Olivier Faure said, referring to the "Green" wave of support registered in the local elections earlier in 2020.

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