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French Socialist Hamon rallies thousands to bolster flagging presidential campaign

© Eric FEFERBERG / AFP | French Socialist Party presidential candidate, Benoit Hamon, delivers a speech during a campaign rally at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on March 19, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-03-20

French Socialist Benoit Hamon attempted to turn around his flagging presidential campaign on Sunday, attacking his main rivals as the "money" candidates in a key speech aimed at halting his poll slide.

Benoit Hamon held a boisterous rally Sunday that packed out an indoor sports and concert arena in Paris with at least 20,000 people.

Speaking from the rally, FRANCE 24 correspondent Catherine Nicholson said Hamon had struck a different tone, attempting to appear more presidential.

“He’s trying to re-launch his campaign,” Nicholson said. “He started off by saying it all starts today and it all starts with you, talking to his supporters. He also cited some of the bogeymen of this election campaign for the left. He listed Brexit, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, the National Front here in France, the Islamic State Group and global warming as big threats facing France today.”

Hamon addresses thousands of supporters at Paris rally

She said Hamon insisted that only his program could successfully combat these threats.

A poll published Sunday showed Hamon dropping four points in two weeks, falling back into joint fourth with Communist-backed radical Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round of the election on April 23.

The poll of 1,508 voters by Kantar Sofres credited both men with 12 percent.

It showed far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron neck-and-neck with 26 percent each, ahead of scandal-hit Republicans nominee Francois Fillon with 17 percent. All polls show Le Pen being beaten by Macron in the May 7 second round runoff.

The Money party

Hamon, who made waves during the Socialist primary with his pledge to introduce a universal basic income and tax robots that take workers' jobs, took aim Sunday at the role of money in the race.

"The money party has too many candidates in this election," the 49-year-old former education minister declared.

"One says 'Get rich!' and the other two say 'Make us rich!'", he said, referring in the first instance to liberal ex-banker Macron and in the second to Fillon and Le Pen.

Fillon was last week charged with misuse of public funds over payments totalling nearly one million euros to his wife and children, whom he employed as parliamentary assistants.

Le Pen, for her part, has faced allegations of illegal campaign financing and misusing European Parliament funds as well as claims that she and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen failed to declare the full value of family properties.

Macron responded Sunday by noting Hamon should spend less time attacking the competition.

"I don't waste... my time at my rallies railing against the other candidates," he said on France Television, adding money is neither something to "cherish" nor to "detest".

'Monarchical' presidency

Hamon's impassioned speech to thousands of supporters at Bercy concert hall followed a show of force Saturday by 65-year-old Mélenchon, who drew tens of thousands of people at a Paris march for a "Sixth Republic".

Mélenchon wants France to scrap its "monarchical" presidential system under the 59-year-old Fifth Republic and replace it with a parliamentary system.

On Saturday, he urged voters to use their vote "to clear out" the political establishment.

A consummate campaigner, he has refused calls to join forces with Hamon to try ensure the splintered left makes it past the first round of the election.

Mélenchon says he no longer trusts the Socialists after five years of business-friendly policies under current President François Hollande.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Date created : 2017-03-19


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