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Hollande warns against ‘peril’ of leftist presidential candidate Mélenchon

Gabriel Bouys, AFP | French President François Hollande looks on after a cabinet meeting at the Elysée Palace in Paris on April 12, 2017.

French President François Hollande has warned voters against the ‘peril’ of far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s political discourse, in what observers considered a veiled endorsement of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.


Hollande broke weeks of silence over France’s fast-approaching election during an interview published on Wednesday, telling conservative French magazine Le Point that Mélenchon was dangerous for the country, and pledging to reveal which candidate he would vote for before the second round ballot on May 7.

“There is a peril in generalisations and lies, which makes people view a candidate as a spectacle rather than focus on his programme,” Hollande said of Mélenchon. “What I tried to do, faced with all these delusions, was to allow reason to prevail.”

Socialist Hollande rose to power in 2012 on the promise he would crack down on the world of finance, but shifted toward pro-market economic policies during his time in office. Facing dismal job approval ratings and divisions within his party, in December he announced that he would not seek re-election.

Mélenchon, who wants to redraft France’s constitution and renegotiate EU treaties, is enjoying a surge in the home stretch of the elections, according to recent polls. Meanwhile, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon appears to be floundering.

The latest Ifop-Fiducial poll on Wednesday showed the Communist-backed Mélenchon was on pace to claim 18.5 percent of votes in the first-round ballot on April 23.

The same study showed far-right candidate Marine Le Pen winning 23.5 percent, one point ahead of Macron. Scandal-plagued conservative François Fillon’s support was stable at 19 percent.

In the interview with Le Point, Hollande spoke highly of the decision by Macron, a former economy minister in his government, to launch a new party. “I think politics needs renewal,” the president said of Macron’s En Marche ! (On the Move!) camp.

In a front-page story out the same day, the conservative Le Figaro newspaper called Mélenchon “the French Chavez”, alleging that his plans for France were inspired by the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Mélenchon mocked the criticism from Hollande and Le Figaro in a blog on his website.

“They announce that my winning the election would bring nuclear winter, a plague of frogs, Red Army tanks and the landing of the Venezuelans,” he wrote.


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