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Leftist Mélenchon eyes Marseille ahead of parliament vote

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | Archival picture shows far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon campaigning in Marseille on April 9, 2017

Leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Wednesday announced he would run as a French parliamentary candidate in Marseille, a city he doesn’t live in, but which heavily backed him in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency last month.


Mélenchon, who failed to qualify for the second round of the presidential race, but earned a sizeable 19.6 percent of votes in the first round, told supporters he intended to campaign for a parliamentary seat representing Marseille’s city centre.

“I intend to run in the [Bouches-du-Rhône department’s] fourth district, and I have already spoken to local activists there. But I need to wage this battle with the support of everyone, across the city,” the charismatic leader said in a letter addressed to members of his political movement.

The fourth district’s seat is currently held by Socialist Party MP Patrick Mennucci, but Mélenchon garnered 39 percent of ballots in that constituency in the April 23 first-round poll, more than any other presidential contender.

Mennucci, who is running for re-election in his home district, immediately slammed Mélenchon as a carpetbagger who was “reproducing” the worst of France’s “old political habits”.

“In only eight years, [Mélenchon] has been a senator from the Essone department, a European MP representing France’s southwest, a parliamentary candidate in the Nord department and now a candidate in the Bouches-du-Rhône. He is no longer a politician, but an election nomad,” Mennucci said on Facebook.

Messy divorce

Mélenchon’s decision to seek a parliamentary seat in France’s 577-seat National Assembly came after his coalition with France’s Communist Party (PCF) appeared to crumble on Tuesday evening.

La France Insoumise” (Unsubmissive France) movement led by Mélenchon and PCF leaders held several talks about extending their partnership through the two-stage legislative elections on June 11 and 18, but failed to reach a deal.

PCF chief Pierre Laurent said he regretted that La France Insoumise had unilaterally decided to step away from negotiations. Mélenchon quickly rejected the accusation as a lie.

Laurent blamed Mélenchon for breaking talks over a handful of constituencies where the PCF wished to field candidates, while the former presidential candidate accused the PCF of cutting backdoor deals with the Socialist Party and the Green Party during the negotiations.

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