Thursday, April 27, 2017

Far-Left Could Help Marine Le Pen

Well, this is interesting.

At the New York Times, "Marine Le Pen May Get a Lift From an Unlikely Source: The Far Left":

PARIS — The far-right leader Marine Le Pen faces an uphill battle in France’s presidential runoff, less than two weeks away. But she saw daylight through a small window on Tuesday, and from an unlikely source: her defeated counterpart on the far left.

Alone among all of France’s major political personalities, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of his own “France Unsubjugated” movement, who finished a strong fourth in Sunday’s voting, has refused to endorse Ms. Le Pen’s opponent, the former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Mélenchon’s critics say his obstinacy is petulant, wounded pride that can only help Ms. Le Pen’s National Front. But it also speaks to the passions that Mr. Macron, a seemingly mild-mannered centrist, provokes in large parts of the French electorate, far left and far right, who share a view of the 39-year-old former investment banker as a fire-breathing incarnation of evil market culture.

As populism and anger over the impacts of globalization energize much of the electorate, Mr. Mélenchon’s stand has added a new element of uncertainty into the final round of voting on May 7.

It has also set off a dynamic in the French race much like when Hillary Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primaries last year — leaving his supporters, still in the thrall of populism, up for grabs as party allegiances broke down.

Mr. Mélenchon’s 19.6 percent of the vote Sunday is now a rich booty — triple the score of the mainstream Socialist Party, whose collapse has elevated Mr. Mélenchon to be de facto leader of the French left. He even won in big cities like Marseille and Lille.

But it is not clear where that vote will now go, not least because far-left populism and far-right populism may have more in common than the seemingly vast gulf between them on the political spectrum would suggest.

Mr. Mélenchon, 65, a former Trotskyite, ran a campaign denouncing banks, globalization and the European Union — just like Ms. Le Pen.

A grizzled orator with a penchant for Latin American dictators, he has the same forgiving attitude she does toward the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Both were competing for working-class voters suspicious of the global financial elite. Mr. Macron had already “ruined the lives of thousands of people” with his pro-market policies, Mr. Mélenchon said during the campaign.

And like Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Mélenchon regularly attacked the news media during the campaign. On election night, after his defeat, he tore into what he called “mediacrats” and “oligarchs.” They were “rejoicing” over “two candidates who approve and want to maintain the current institutions” of government, the longtime fan of Castro and Hugo Chávez said.

The shared lines of attack gave the candidates at the political extremes their best showings ever, if from opposite ends of the spectrum. Mr. Mélenchon almost doubled his 2012 result, refused to concede for hours and then attacked both finalists, refusing to distinguish between them.

In that, he is alone. Across the board, politicians and other former candidates have urgently counseled their supporters to vote for Mr. Macron to block Ms. Le Pen’s path to the Élysée Palace...
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