Whoever wins the presidential election in France, one man is determined to sideline him and curtail his powers.

Even before the result is known tomorrow, radical left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has become a surprise kingmaker, has called on voters to make him prime minister in June’s legislative elections.

Mélenchon, a fervent opponent of both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, has promised that, if successful, he will force whoever wins the keys to the Elysee tomorrow into an uncomfortable parliamentary “cohabitation” that would hamper efforts to pass reforms he opposes. the left.

The 70-year-old leader of La France Insoumise (LFI – Unbowed France), who had vowed to step down after his third presidential bid, said giving his party a majority in the Assemblée Nationale would turn the election into a “third round”. He would also solve the dilemma of those voters -especially on the left- who felt politically orphaned by the result of the first round a fortnight ago. Many of the 7.7 million people who voted for Mélenchon have said they will abstain tomorrow.

Last week, as Macron, 44, and Le Pen, 53, crisscrossed France trying to attract the nearly 50% of voters who preferred another candidate, LFI was engaged in frantic negotiations with environmentalists and communists to form a united bloc. to oppose the eventual winner. . Polls released on Friday suggest Macron remains his favourite, but the legitimacy of his second term will be questioned if he does not win a convincing victory.

The legislative vote is traditionally contested along party lines, but Mélenchon is determined to make it personal. “I ask the French to elect me prime minister. I ask you to elect a majority of deputies from La France Insoumise. And I call on everyone who wants to join the Popular Union [of the left] to join us in this beautiful combat.”

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He reminded voters that it was the prime minister, not the president, who signed government decrees. “He would be prime minister not by the grace and favor of M Macron or Mme Le Pen, but because the French wanted him,” he said, adding that he would make the president “secondary.” He ruled out any negotiations with the new president.

“If it doesn’t suit the president then they can leave, because I won’t,” he said in an interview with BFMTV.

Mélenchon’s ambitions were boosted after he polled just 421,308 votes behind Le Pen in the first round on April 10, which saw the collapse of the traditional left and right parties. The other three leftist candidates, from the Ecology party, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party (PS), obtained a total of just over 3 million votes. That would have secured their place in the second round if they had supported his campaign.

The result angered many Mélenchon supporters, particularly young people and those from working-class areas, sparking protests at Paris universities, including the Sorbonne and Sciences Po, despite the fact that 41% of those in 18 to 25 years, more than 4 million voters, abstained in the first. round.

The campaign for the 577 seats in the French lower house will begin on May 10. Macron’s centrist La Republique en Marche (LREM) currently has 263 seats, the conservative opposition Les Républicains, 93; the centrist MoDem, 52; the PS, 25 and La France Insoumise only 17.

Campaign posters displayed at Henin-Beaumont, in Pas-de-Calais. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Mélenchon insisted that his Popular Union led in 105 electoral districts and that a majority of 290 was “possible”. “If I don’t fight for this victory, what do I do: say ‘go ahead and give them all the power’? I don’t want Mrs. Le Pen to win the country and I don’t want Mr. Macron to keep power. I say there is a third round. It is up to the French to decide who is the head of government,” he said in an interview last week.

Mélenchon would need the support of France’s entire left-wing electorate, some 11.8 million of whom voted in the first round, if he has any chance of winning a parliamentary majority after the June 12-19 elections. Mélenchon has rejected suggestions of any alliance with the PS.

LFI MEP Manon Aubry spent last week negotiating with left-wing parties to form an alliance for the legislative elections. “There are obstacles, but there is a common desire to create a union around a program,” she told Aubry. Observer.

When asked about the PS, he added that the party would have to abandon its “neoliberal stance.” “We have put a series of conditions on the table and the ball is in their court. The question is, are they ready to come at us?

Antoine Bristielle, a political analyst and director of the Observatory of Opinion at the leftist Jean Jaurès Foundation, said Mélenchon had struck a political masterstroke by learning the lesson of 2017 when he failed to unite the left after the presidential election.

“After 2017, he failed to maintain high-level support for subsequent elections and he wants to do it differently this time,” Bristielle said.

“He is trying to consolidate the support of his base and has realized that the way to do it is from a position of strength.

“It is not a question of how many MPs he gets, but whether he can get environmentalists and communists to support him before the legislative elections, thus creating a political force. Honestly, I think he doesn’t want the PS to join him; considers that the party does not represent much now and will die alone, so joining it would be more negative than positive”.

Laurent Joffrin, former director of the newspaper Releasehe said LFI partners would be expected to “submit” rather than be allies, and would have to sign on to Mélenchon’s policies, including withdrawal from Europe.

“These positions are not those of the voters of the non-Melenchonist left and less of a more centrist electorate.

“This is the perennial problem of the radical left: It has a shot at power, but it absolutely doesn’t want to band together to do it,” Joffrin wrote.


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