Mélenchon shaking up French election campaign

With less than two weeks to go to the first round of the French presidential election the left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the conservative contender Fillon are both at 18 percent in the polls - behind Le Pen of the Front National and Macron with his En marche! movement, with 22 percent support apiece. Commentators see Mélenchon reaching the second round as a nightmare scenario that has its roots in the decline of the established parties.

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Nothing but unrealistic promises

The left-wing candidate is promising the French heaven on earth with great astuteness, warns Il Sole 24 Ore:

“Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a born speaker who knows how to beguile the masses. … Despite being the oldest candidate he is resorting to all the tools technology has to offer. … He launched the online game Fiscal Kombat last Friday, in which the hero Mélenchon hunts down the powerful rich to get money off them to finance his programme. And not just a few euros but more than 200 billion in order to lower the pension age to 60 and the weekly working time to 32 hours, give employees a sixth week of holidays, hire 60,000 teachers and 200,000 civil servants, raise the minimum wage by 16 percent and force the state to give everyone work. And that's not counting the hair-raising idea of introducing a planned economy with which he promises to start a 'revolution of the people against the presidential monarchy'.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Run-off against Le Pen would be a nightmare

Mélenchon and Le Pen have a lot in common, the Süddeutsche Zeitung notes:

“They condemn globalisation, think little of liberal economic reforms, rail against Germany and castigate the EU, at least in its current form. Certainly, Mélenchon is more bearable than Le Pen because he doesn't incite hatred against immigrants. But otherwise the two have strikingly similar messages. Until now convinced Europeans were convinced that only Le Pen posed a real threat in the presidential elections. Now Mélenchon has elbowed his way to the front with a powerful campaign. That could shake the faith of many in Germany and the EU that the left-liberal Emmanuel Macron will beat Le Pen in the second round and move into the Élysée Palace as France's next president. Suddenly a run-off vote between Le Pen and Mélenchon doesn't seem completely out of the question. It's a nightmare scenario for the EU.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Outrage about elites making outsiders strong

Current polls testify to an unprecedented weakness of the established parties in France, The Guardian comments:

“The result is that three 'outsiders' now lead the polls. They may take as much as two-thirds of the vote in the first round between them. This reflects the collapse of France’s post-war parties of right and left, dogged by the decades-long failure to bring a solution to high unemployment (over 10% nationwide, and 24% for 18-25s). Paradoxically, inequality in France remains lower than in Britain, Germany and the US. Its welfare state has partly cushioned the economy from the fallout of the 2009 financial crisis. But popular outrage about Parisian elites and financial scandals has added to a toxic mix.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Mélenchon manoeuvering himself into a corner

Mélenchon's key election promise is to found a 6th republic with a single parliamentary chamber. An unrealistic plan, legal expert Serge Sur concludes in Le Monde:

“Either he proposes a referendum on a transition to a new republic after his election victory. He stands a large chance of losing such a referendum, because the French aren't ready for this leap into the unknown. What would he do then? Would he resign as Charles de Gaulle did [in 1969 after the failed referendum on regional reform and reform of the senate], the very de Gaulle whom Mélenchon is so fond of citing, incidentally? Or he could try to move outside the boundaries of legality and evoke a constituent assembly without any legal basis. In that case one must warn of the risk of institutional chaos. … France has better things to do than launch gratuitous institutional debates, particularly as today the constitution is one of the mainstays that are keeping the country stable.”