Will the spectre of the far-left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon be exorcised by the latest terror attack?by Ana Pouvreau , Mark Porter / April 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
The French presidential election programme ground to an unscheduled halt this morning following the Islamic State-claimed shooting in the Champs Elysées on Thursday night. One policeman died, and two others were injured. Two of the four main candidates, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen, immediately cancelled events ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline for electioneering, while others reacted with shock and expressed sympathy for the families and friends of the wounded and dead officers.
As tension ratcheted across France two days before Sunday’s election, speculation mounted as to how much political traction this was likely to give Le Pen and her fellow right-wing front-runner, Fillon. Both are seen as hard on terrorism and crime, and hawkish on security.
Whether or not it is likely to thwart the ambitions of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the 65 year-old Trotskyite who was riding hard towards the front of the pack, remains to be seen. Thanks to his galvanic campaign, a second round run-off between the far right and the hard left was looking increasingly possible. Young militants, misty-eyed communists and disenchanted socialists have breathed life into his prospects ahead of the first round vote. His call for a National Guard of volunteers to replace the 7,000 anti-terrorism troops deployed around France as part of the emergency measures adopted after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in January 2015, is unlikely to play well with the electorate.
Mélenchon’s critics might instead care to take note of his foreign policy, which is a near mirror image of the National Front’s. Both he and Le Pen are staunch detractors of Nato and threaten to pull the plug on the European Union. And both are keen supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is perceived by many as posing a grave danger to European security. (Indeed, of the 11 candidates competing in the first round, eight are in favour of leaving Nato and nine want closer relations with Putin.)
In recent months, Le Pen and the moderate Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! party have dominated proceedings after the conservative François Fillon of Les Républicains was hit by scandal. But this is now a four-horse race, with Mélenchon closing in fast. Recent polls show that Le Pen and Macron are above 20 per cent, with Mélenchon and Fillon…