June 29, 2022

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Leftwinger Mélenchon courts youth vote as he eyes election run-off spot

2 min read

At Paris Nanterre University, birthplace of France’s 1968 student revolution, Caroline Houtcheme spends her lunch hours handing out flyers and rallying support for the “honest” leftwing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

“We need to launch an alternative to the right,” said the 23-year-old as she flagged down fellow students to publicise a campus election debate ahead of the first round of France’s presidential poll on April 10.

“Mélenchon is someone who seems honest . . . His programme is one he’s had for a long time and you can tell he believes in it. It’s very structured and well thought out,” she said.

Mélenchon, 70, is gaining in the opinion polls as he makes his third bid for the Élysée — having come within a whisker of making the run-off against eventual winner Emmanuel Macron in 2017. His chances of causing a first-round upset this time depend partly on how he fares with young voters.

His brand of radical socialism tinged with environmentalism has proved a winner with young French before. Mélenchon won more first round votes among 18-25 year-olds than either Macron or the far-right’s Marine Le Pen in the poll five years ago.

The 70-year-old Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is gaining in the opinion polls, is making his third bid for the presidency — having come within a whisker of making the run-off against eventual winner Emmanuel Macron five years ago © Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg

While his programme has not changed much from 2017, he is being aided this time by growing awareness of the climate crisis and interest in the environmental issues he has long championed. Green issues have moved up the list of French voter concerns in surveys to rank behind only Russia’s war in Ukraine and the high cost of living.

But courting youth creates a particular problem because under 35s are more prone to abstention than older voters. One in four young voters say they may stay away this time, polls…

2022-04-03 00:00:31

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