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French firebrand leftist to quit party presidency, but not politics

Eric Cabanis, AFP | French left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon,

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a sharp-tongued leftist and former presidential candidate, announced Friday he was stepping down as co-president of France’s Left Party (PG) but was continuing his political “battle.”

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The far-left leader, who garnered 11 percent support in the first round of France’s 2012 presidential election, said his decision was part of an effort to reorganize the party ahead of future elections, and assured reporters that he was not quitting his political camp.

“We are changing our structure in line with a new strategy,” Mélenchon told the AFP news agency of the PG. “There is no crisis or anything like that.”

Martine Billard, who shared the presidency of the party with Mélenchon, would also be stepping down, party sources told Reuters.

Often in the French media's spotlight, Mélenchon is known for making jibes at President François Hollande, a Socialist, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who nevertheless has consistently beat Mélenchon at the ballot box.

More recently Mélenchon, 63, has criticised leaders of France’s Communist Party (PC), his coalition partners in the 2012 presidential race, for forming alliances with Hollande’s Socialist Party (PS) in local and European elections.

“We do not want to be buried with Hollande,” Mélenchon said Friday in reference to the French president’s record-low approval ratings and his party’s poor performances in municipal and EU parliamentary polls earlier this year.

Hollande has also come under fire in recent days from former housing minister Cécile Duflot, a member of the Green party who quit the government in March.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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