French left is divided, weakened in presidential race
PARIS (AP) — The French left is running divided and weakened in this year’s presidential race as at least five mainstream presidential candidates have rejected any alliances with each other — and an online vote meant to pick a leader appears doomed to fail.
An icon of the French left, Christiane Taubira, a staunch feminist and a champion of minorities, won the so-called Popular Primary on Sunday designed to unite left-wing supporters before France’s presidential election is held in two rounds on April 10 and April 24. More than 392,000 people voted in the primary.
Yet many of the mainstream left-wing presidential contenders said they will not respect the outcome of the popular because they did not respect how it was set up.
Taubira, 69, joined the race earlier this month in hopes of convincing others to join forces behind her candidacy. So far, her strategy hasn’t worked. Critics and rivals both say her candidacy is further splintering the French left.
“We want a united left, a left that stands up, because we are attached to left-wing ideals,” she said after Sunday’s result was announced.
Taubira is revered for championing a same-sex marriage bill into French law in 2013. She last ran for president in 2002, the first Black woman to do so in France, winning 2.3% of the vote.
At least five main candidates ranging from left-wing to the far-left are running for president, in addition to lesser-known contenders. At the moment, none of them appears in a position to reach the two-person runoff in April’s election.
Centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who doesn’t hide his intention to run for reelection, is considered the front-runner. Conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse and two far-right figures, Marine le Pen and Eric Zemmour, are the main challengers according to polls, placing far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in fifth position.
Melenchon — a political firebrand with a notorious temper — refuses to form a united front with other left-wing candidates. The 70-year-old politician, who heads the “Rebel France” party, has promised to guarantee jobs for everyone, raise the minimum wage, lower the retirement age to 60 and hike taxes on multinationals and rich households.
The Greens’ contender, Yannick Jadot, 54, and the Socialist candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, 62, have also rejected the idea of running together despite a traditional alliance between their parties. Another candidate, Fabien Roussel, 52, is running for the Communist Party.
Jadot, Hidalgo and Melenchon have all said they won’t comply with the result of the Popular Primary.
Hidalgo’s campaign has failed to prompt enthusiasm from leftist voters. Her once-powerful party remains weakened after Macron’s win in 2017, when Socialist President Francois Hollande decided not to run for reelection amid unprecedented low popularity ratings.
Jadot unveiled his electoral platform Saturday during a rally in Lyon, saying that climate change is the “biggest challenge” that voters and politicians face.
“Tomorrow’s France must get out of energies of the past,” he said. He promised not to build any new nuclear reactors in France and to progressively replace the old ones by renewable energy, which he said could take up to 25 years. France now relys on nuclear power for 70% of its energy.
Jadot also vowed to combat social injustice via ensuring a minimum revenue of 920 euros ($1,026) a month to all adults living in poverty.
Barbara Surk in Nice contributed to this report.