The far left versus the far right: French election part deux


by Paul Cotterill    
9:30 am - May 13th 2012

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If you thought the French elections were over, think again.

On 10th & 17th June, we have a two-round electoral contest potentially as exciting, and as important for France, as the election of President Hollande.

That’s because Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftwing group Front de gauche (FG), has just confirmed his candidacy in the 11th circonscription of the Pas-de-Calais département, where he will go up against Front National leader Marine Le Pen in the legislative elections, at which 577 deputés are elected across France to sit in the Assemblée Nationale.

This is a somewhat risky strategy, as Le Pen led here on the first round in the Presidential election with 31.4% of the vote. The second round (Hollande vs. Sarkozy) went to Hollande with 60.5% of the vote as FN voters obeyed Le Pen and abstained.

Much will depend, therefore, on whether Parti Socialiste (PS) voters choose to back Mélenchon at the expense of their own candidate, Philippe Kemel, in the second round (unlike in the Presidential elections, in the legislative elections all candidates gaining more than 12.5% if the vote in Round 1 vote go on to Round 2).

Alternatively, Mélenchon may step back, and advise FG round 1 voters to back the PS in Round 2 and allow Kemel to retain this Assemblée Nationale seat for the PS.

I suspect this is unlikely; Mélenchon will feel he has done the right thing by Hollande for the Presidential election, and that the favour should now be returned. Certainly he feels he has unfinished business with Hollande, and will want to be seen to hold Hollande to his promises e.g. the renegotation of the Merkozy Fiscal Compact.

In this case, much may depend on how much Kemel really wants to be deputé, and how willing he is to risk letting Le Pen through on a split leftist vote. Early indications from the Libération coverage suggest that Catherine Génisson, the boss of the FS Federation the Pas-de-Calais départment suggest, may indeed be open to a second round pact to allow Mélenchon through on the PS vote, but there are bound to be countervailing voices.

In any event, keep your eyes on results as they come out on 1oth June. While clearly who gets the seat in Round 2 is the most important, the symbolic value of round 1 can hardly be underestimated either (and may well lead to a significant PS to FG switch even in Round 1).

If Le Pen is beaten in Round 1 on home turf (she is already on the Regional Council here), then Mélenchon may attain national, even European leftie-hero status, and the Front National will have been dealt a significant blow. If it all goes pear-shaped, with Le Pen winning Round 1 and, heaven forbid, even sneaking through in Round 2, then it will be very bad news.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Reader comments


I imagine most readers of this blog will wish Ms Le Pen luck, as a victory for her would be a triumph for liberalism over socialism.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – The far left versus the far right: French election part deux http://t.co/wEODoYEg

  3. Jamie

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  4. Jason Brickley

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  5. BevR

    The far left versus the far right: French election part deux | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/VNntiX5U via @libcon

  6. Josiah Mortimer

    This may well be the most tense eleciton of the year – Melenchon vs Le Pen. You read that right. http://t.co/uQLuIwAG

  7. BevR

    The far left versus the far right: French election part deux | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/VNntiX5U via @libcon

  8. Bill McIntosh

    The far left versus the far right: French election part deux | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wAUuncjQ via @libcon





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