Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon announced on Saturday he will directly challenge Marine Le Pen for the seat in the French legislative elections in June.
Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon announced on Saturday he will directly challenge Marine Le Pen for the seat in the French legislative elections in June. Le Pen looks set to win, however, as Hénin-Beaumont is her home territory, where she is a municipal councillor, and in the Presidential elections she finished third with Mélenchon fourth.
The former mining town has high unemployment at 20% and is one of the poorest towns in France. In the Presidential elections, a third of the voters in Hénin-Beaumont voted for Le Pen, who promised protectionist policies, including safeguarding jobs for the French.
If the Front National leader does win the seat, it will provide a boost to her party, which is riding high after picking up 18% of the vote in the first round of the French Presidential elections. It would also be the first time an MP from outside the left has represented the seat and may give the far-right party more influence in parliament.
The left almost lost the seat in 2009 after a corruption scandal implicating the socialist mayor, Gérard Dalongeville, that left the town €12 million out of pocket.
In Mélenchon’s uphill bid to win the seat, he plans to provide a complete alternative to the far right, as opposed to trying to win over Front National voters. He stated that he wanted to tackle the economic crisis socially, without referring to ethnicity. There is also a chance Nicolas Sarkozy supporters may vote for him over Le Pen and Mélenchon may be successful in brokering a deal with the socialists to gain their support.
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Le Pen says that does not see Mélenchon as a threat, stating:
“It’s love! I think he can’t live without me anymore.”