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France’s far-left demagogue: Ready to govern?

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Emphatic, combative, demanding: this style was on full display when far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon addressed an enthusiastic audience of several thousand people celebrating victory in France’s legislative elections on Sunday.

Standing before a gathering of supporters from the working class in Paris’ 20th arrondissement, Mélenchon delivered an unceremonious address to President Emmanuel Macron. “The president must either resign or appoint one of us as prime minister,” he declared.

Other left-wing leaders have said the country’s future should be “discussed”. Not this time. On Sunday, the crowd roared.

Mr. Mélenchon’s tone and tough stances have earned him a loyal young following — the only left-wing leader to do so — and have made him both admired and hated, marginalized and visible in French politics. Seventy-three percent of French people have a negative view of him, while far more view Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, negatively. But he has also attracted huge crowds that hang on his every word, as was the case on Sunday.

Now, he is bound to become the focus of discussion about the future direction of France: his left-wing style, or the more moderate left-wing style represented by his domestic critics? The victorious left coalitionHis party, France Indomitable, won the most parliamentary seats in the coalition government, with 75.

He said he should lead the government. Unlike other left-wing leaders, he has come close to the presidency. Almost in the runoff Two years ago. On June 22, he told France 5 television that he was “obviously” ready to become prime minister. “I intend to govern the country,” he said.

Even members of Mr. Mélenchon’s governing coalition have vowed never to do that, fearing his occasional bouts of extremism. “If he really wants to help the New Popular Front, he should put himself aside,” François Hollande, a mild-mannered Socialist former president, said two weeks ago. “He should shut up.”

He won’t do that, which is both the source of his support and the main problem between him and the rest of his left-wing coalition, which threatened to break up almost immediately despite a narrow victory on Sunday.

“The problem they face is that no one else wants Mélenchon in office when the president seeks to form a new government,” said political scientist Gérard Grunberg, emeritus research director at the National Center for Scientific Research. “He makes a real coalition on the left impossible. He is very demagogic. The left is completely divided.”

France currently has no government and it is unclear how it will be formed. No party or coalition won a majority of seats in the election. Despite this, Mélenchon said on Sunday, “We will not cancel a page or a comma of our program.”

The plan is a redistributive, egalitarian, anti-capitalist economic vision inspired largely by Mr Mélenchon’s 2022 Presidential Election Platform.

On Sunday, he spoke about the Coalition Economic Plan It’s as if he had written the measures himself: raising the after-tax monthly minimum wage from 1,398 euros to 1,600 euros (or from $1,500 to about $1,700) — “We’ll do it by decree,” Mr. Mélenchon said; freezing food, energy and fuel prices; and a $162 billion tax on the rich. Other measures include payments to families for costs related to their children’s education. The right and Mr. Macron criticized it as adding an unbearable fiscal burden to an already heavily indebted country.

Mélenchon didn’t even need to mention another signature element of the left-wing platform: “Retire at 60!” young people began to chant spontaneously.

It is hard to imagine Macron appointing Melenchon as prime minister. They are not good friends. Macron Compared The left-wing political movement turned to the far-right National Rally. Mr Mélenchon was happy to return the compliment.

“Under his command, France became a global poster child for police brutality and government abuses in a regime that was supposed to be democratic,” Mélenchon said of the president in his 2023 book, “We Can Do Better! Towards a Citizens’ Revolution,” which has not been translated into English.

He battled the media, targeting individual journalists, declaring his hatred for the United States and his love for Latin American left-wing dictators, and he was as talkative as they were. He praised the dictatorships in China, Cuba and Venezuela. “The Yankees represent everything I hate,” he said. He told Le Monde in 2011“A pretentious, arrogant empire of ignorant people and pathetic leaders.”

Mélenchon, a former Trotskyist, longtime senator for the Paris banlieues and minister under pragmatic Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, was a reader of Faulkner before he left the Socialist Party in 2008 to form his own party and move further to the left.

He has refused to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization, openly fought with leaders of French Jewish organizations and has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism, charges he denies. Traffic Tips For example, it was once said that the former Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici, who is Jewish, does not “think about French issues” but about “international finance”.

“There is at least an ambiguity there that favours anti-Semitism,” Mr. Grunberg said.

Another political scientist, Patrick Weil, agrees: “Mélenchon’s influence also has limits. Most people see him as dangerous and an anti-Semite.”

When Mélenchon said on Sunday that the priority was to “recognize the Palestinian state as soon as possible,” the crowd erupted in chants of “Free Palestine.” As at other Mélenchon rallies, headscarves and Palestinian flags were everywhere.

One of his Long-time hero Maximilien Robespierre was the bloodiest of the French revolutionaries, and during his campaign he showed his dictatorial side. Eliminate five members Members of his France Inflexible party often disagree with him.“Our democracy deserves better than you,” independent-minded deputy and party member François Ruffin posted on social media, saying he was not among those purged.

Yet he has a strategy — appealing to poor youth with populist economics, working-class French Muslims in the suburbs with a fierce hostility to Israel, anti-American and anti-European rhetoric and a pro-immigration stance — that has proven successful in this election. Many of the people cheering for him on Sunday were Arab and African. “The French have no religion, no skin color,” Mr. Mélenchon said.

He is one of the few French politicians who has a positive attitude toward immigration, using the word “Creolization” to describe his country, as he did on Sunday. “It’s very positive,” Mr. Weil said. “He’s integrating young people from North Africa and African descent into France. He says France has become a melting pot. That’s very important.”

This is one of the many reasons why he has won supporters. On Monday, Mathilde Panot, one of the leaders of France Indomitable, preemptively told RTL radio that Mélenchon was “absolutely not disqualified” from being prime minister.

His remarks on Sunday night were full of references to his hero, Robespierre, who implemented the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.

He said: “The new Popular Front government has no power except that granted by the people.” This sentence could have been written by Robespierre 230 years ago, and Robespierre always claimed that “the people” was the only source of government power.

“It is not the politics of the past that will continue,” Mélenchon said, “but the people who will emerge from every working-class neighborhood.”

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