Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Mali: Jihadist group announces death of french hostage

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Tutu cautions ANC: South African peace laureate criticizes ruling party

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Clamping down on jihad propaganda online

Read more

DEBATE

Homegrown Jihadists: France Sets Out Plan to Monitor Web and Support Families (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Homegrown Jihadists: France Sets Out Plan to Monitor Web and Support Families

Read more

WEB NEWS

Ukrainians turn Russian 'evidence' into meme

Read more

FOCUS

Copenhagen seeks to decriminalise use of cannabis

Read more

FACE-OFF

French president's advisor resigns: A new blow for François Hollande

Read more

ENCORE!

Films as plays, plays as films and TV at the cinema

Read more

  • Fatah, Hamas agree to form Palestinian unity government

    Read more

  • Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

    Read more

  • Muslims in CAR pray for an escape route

    Read more

  • US soldiers arrive in Poland as Ukraine crisis continues

    Read more

  • Madrid beat Bayern 1-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

    Read more

  • Britain's ex-PM Blair warns against spread of radical Islam

    Read more

  • Turkish PM offers condolences to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915

    Read more

  • Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

    Read more

  • Colombian president reinstates firebrand Bogota mayor

    Read more

  • NYPD public relations campaign on Twitter goes awry

    Read more

  • In pictures: Violent protests erupt in Rio

    Read more

  • French hostage Gilberto Rodrigues Leal has died, Islamists say

    Read more

  • 'Pope-mania' hits John Paul II's Polish hometown

    Read more

  • French actress Catherine Deneuve to sell €4 million château

    Read more

  • Chelsea, Atletico draw 0-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch offensive in the east after politican 'tortured'

    Read more

  • Echoes of 2pac and Biggie? French rap feud turns violent

    Read more

  • New French film tackles grisly anti-Semitic murder

    Read more

France

'Homeric battle' as leftist firebrand takes on Le Pen

©

Text by Mehdi Chebil

Latest update : 2012-05-12

French leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon confirmed on Saturday that he would run for the same parliamentary seat as far-right leader Marine Le Pen, setting the stage for a showdown between radical forces at opposing ends of the political spectrum.

France’s far-left leader and former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has managed to return to the nation’s political spotlight by challenging his far-right nemesis Marine Le Pen on her home turf in next month's parliamentary elections.

The Henin-Beaumont electoral district

Population: 124,641 (1999 census)

Henin-Beaumont is located near the Belgian border in northern France, a region blighted by high unemployment.

Since its creation in 1986, the electoral district has always been represented by left-wing politicians.

Marine Le Pen moved to Henin-Beaumont in 2007. She was elected as municipal councillor in March 2008.
 

The leftist firebrand, who finished in fourth position after the first round of the presidential poll, confirmed Saturday that he would run for a parliamentary seat in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont. He made no mystery about the fact that he chose this electoral district precisely because of Marine Le Pen’s strong political influence there, with close to one-third of voters having cast their presidential ballots for the far-right leader on April 22.

“There will be a Homeric battle of sorts with extremely powerful symbolism, since [Henin-Beaumont] is the birthplace of France’s labour movement as well as the place where Le Pen, with her bravado, has decided to set up shop”, Mélenchon told France Info radio before announcing his candidacy.

Fighting for political relevance

The showdown between the champions of France’s far left and far right is shaping up to be a symbolic struggle for Mélenchon, whose future in national politics is now at stake.

While Marine Le Pen’s legitimacy at the head of the anti-immigration National Front party is uncontested, Mélenchon has built his success on an alliance of notoriously rebellious leftist movements coalesced around the French Communist Party. François Hollande’s presidential victory threatens to deepen cracks inside Mélenchon’s Left Front Party, as the former senator made clear he would not join the incoming government - unlike several Communist officials, who said they were “ready” to accept ministerial positions.

A head-to-head duel with Marine Le Pen would spectacularly confirm Mélenchon as the leader of the France’s far left.

It would also prolong his campaign claim of being the far right's “sole” opponent. During the presidential campaign, mainstream party leaders tried to seduce the nearly 18 percent of the electorate who voted for Le Pen in the first round of the election. Mélenchon, who garnered just under 12 percent of the vote, hopes to broaden his appeal by portraying himself as an uncompromising bulwark against the National Front.

No love lost

Marine Le Pen is expected to visit Henin-Beaumont on Monday to take up the gauntlet. She has already dismissed Mélenchon’s candidacy on her turf, telling Europe 1 radio with more than a hint of irony: “He’s looking for a district where he can win… I thought it was anger [that motivated him], but I’m realising that in fact it was love”.

Despite trading venomous barbs during the presidential campaign, the two leaders have met only once in a TV debate. After Mélenchon asked her a question about abortion, Le Pen refused to answer, claiming that she couldn’t debate with a man who called her “half insane”. Mélenchon promptly hit back, saying that he was still keen to debate with the remaining “sane half" of Le Pen.

This time, the far-right heiress will not be able to dodge Mélenchon’s challenge without losing face. The showdown promises to be explosive, with both leaders ready to use fierce rhetoric to conquer Henin-Beaumont’s working-class electorate.

Le Pen took home 31 percent of the Henin-Beaumont vote compared with Mélenchon's 14.85 percent in the presidential election's first round. Still, the far-left leader is hoping that a right-wing electorate split between Le Pen’s Front National and the outgoing ruling UMP party will bring him victory there on June 10. 
 

Date created : 2012-05-12

  • FRENCH ELECTIONS 2012

    Are French centrists losing their middle ground?

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Sarkozy government resigns ahead of power handover

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Sarkozy allies mull risky entente with far right

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)