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How Marine Le Pen hopes to lure France’s disgruntled far left

Martin Bureau, AFP | French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is fishing for votes ahead of her May 7 election runoff against Marine Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen has urged dithering supporters of the hard-left “Unsubmissive France” not to “submit” to Emmanuel Macron, attempting to portray her rival for the French presidency as the embodiment of the “neoliberal” capitalism they abhor.

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The anti-immigration candidate, who trailed Macron in the first round of France’s presidential election last Sunday, made her pitch to supporters of fourth-placed Jean-Luc Mélenchon in a televised interview on Tuesday.

“I want to ask Mélenchon’s supporters, ‘Do you really intend to cast your votes for Mr Macron?’,” said Le Pen. Referring to a recent labour law reviled by leftists, she warned against backing “someone who would pass legislation a thousand times” worse.

Unsubmissive France: 'Not one vote must go to National Front'

To the dismay of many politicians on left and right, Mélenchon has himself refrained from endorsing Macron in the second round. In so doing, he has broken with an almost sacred tradition on the left, where the fight against the far-right National Front has always been de rigueur.

Instead, the 400,000 members of his La France insoumise movement – variously translated as Unsubmissive France or Unbowed France – will be holding an internal, and non-binding, poll on whether to vote for Macron or abstain.

Macron’s ‘submissive France’

Mélenchon’s reluctance to back the former investment banker has emboldened Le Pen, who sees in the first round’s almost 7 million Insoumis her best chance of closing the gap ahead of the May 7 run-off.

Having tactically “stepped down” from the leadership of the far-right National Front, which remains toxic to most left-wingers, she has now adopted many of Mélenchon’s keywords in an attempt to liken her brand of anti-establishment politics to his.

Examining Le Pen's manifesto

In her interview on Tuesday, she sought to portray herself as the “candidate of the people” while repeatedly referring to her opponent as the choice of “oligarchs” – a reference to Mélenchon’s gripe on Sunday that “oligarchs” and the media were “jubilant” after Macron’s first-round success.

She also blasted her Europhile rival as a “submissive” candidate, claiming that a Macron presidency would mean “France submitting to everything: to the European Union, to Germany, to the United States, etc.”

Future together… with Marine

The Le Pen camp knows that the second round presents Mélenchon and his supporters with a conundrum. Throughout the campaign, the Insoumis have been fierce critics of both the far right and the former investment banker. Many have vowed to shun the polls on May 7.

But abstention will not be enough to carry Le Pen to power. She needs to translate blank votes into votes of support. That is the aim of a leaflet that is doing the rounds on social media, titled “The Future Together – with Marine too”.

The Future Together – L’Avenir en commun, in the original French – is the name of Mélenchon’s 126-page election manifesto. According to the leaflet, that manifesto has much in common with Le Pen’s own programme.

The future together... with Marine too
The future together... with Marine too

Featuring pictures of Mélenchon and Le Pen side by side, the flyer lists a number of purportedly similar policies put forward by the two candidates, ranging from protectionist measures to the introduction of proportional representation.

Representatives of the Insoumis have blasted an attempt to “manipulate” voters with the leaflet, which the National Front claims is not an official party document.

Whether Mélenchon’s supporters can be persuaded not to endorse Macron will be known next Tuesday, when the results of their internal poll are disclosed. One thing is certain: while the poll offers three choices – to vote Macron, blank or abstain – casting a vote for Le Pen is not an option.

This article was translated from the original in French.

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