France will hold the first round of its presidential election on April 23, 2017. With outgoing president François Hollande having declined to run for re-election, some ten candidates are vying to make it to the May 7th run-off round, where only the top two vote-getters will compete for the top post. French author Frédéric-Yves Jeannet introduces us to the two-time candidate who is challenging both the nation’s economic and political party structures: Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Most people in France — let alone overseas — are not sure how his surname should be spelled, and you can often see it printed with an “a.” In just the same way, people often don’t know exactly who Jean-Luc Mélenchon is, although he has been a part of the French and European political landscape for over three decades. Currently a member of the European Parliament, he was once the youngest senator in France, elected at the age of 35. Thirty years later, he is a candidate for the upcoming presidential election for “Unsubmissive France,” an anti-political party and a people’s movement whose mission is to elect Mélenchon as president and a swathe of other “unsubmissive” members to the National Assembly.
He is a true intellectual. He is also, in a way, our Bernie Sanders. Although, in fact, his platform is even more progressive than Bernie’s: Reducing the work week to 32 hours and the retirement age to 60, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, transitioning to sustainable energy and shutting down France’s extensive nuclear-power system, repealing Hollande’s anti-labor “El Khomri” law, withdrawing from trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and also withdrawing from the NATO military alliance. And, crucially, Unsubmissive France is also calling for a constituent assembly to be held in order to draft a new constitution. Mélenchon studied to become a language and literature professor in the French educational system, and that’s what gives him a pedagogical talent over and above his well-known oratorical skills. Even his worst enemies declare that he is by far the most articulate one among them.
Like Bernie, he is fighting against the Dark Force, the Empire of Evil, the Land of Mordor: Marine Le Pen of the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front. In short, France’s Trump. Mélenchon earns a modest salary, doesn’t have a car or bodyguards, takes the train to go to the European Parliament in Brussels, and, when in Paris, travels by subway.
Also, like Bernie, he is also fighting against the international neoliberal establishment embodied by Hollande, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, and the telegenic Barrack Obama. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get through to the second round in May. It is more likely that the Socialist candidate, Benoît Hamon, The Republican Party’s François Fillon, or the En Marche Party’s (also telegenic) Emmanuel Macron will be there to face off against Marine Le Pen.
And finally, like Bernie, Mélenchon, is the best of them. A second best option, a wild horse? Not quite. If he were to make an alliance with Hamon, who shares his belief in the reconstruction and refounding of the Republic (the Fifth since De Gaulle and they want to found the Sixth), Jean-Luc Mélenchon could very well get through to the second round. Talks are going on, pieces are moving, and still other things may happen before April. We deserve to recover our voice and vote against the Dark Forces that are taking precedence over democratic regimes all over this planet, our last and only one. May the force be with us.