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Geopolitics

Will The French Left Do The Right Thing?

Leftists in France will not vote Le Pen on Sunday. But will they vote Macron?

Torn
Torn
Jillian Deutsch

PARIS — The French Left doesn't have a candidate of its own for the country's presidential election runoff on Sunday.

The choice of the ruling Socialists, Benoît Hamon, scored an abysmal 6.4% in the first round of the vote, which some have predicted could lead to the death of the longstanding party of the establishment Left. Many would-be Hamon voters opted instead for far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who garnered a surprising 19.6%, but still came in fourth place.

That leaves "la gauche" with a choice: far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen or pro-business centrist Emmanuel Macron.

For virtually all of the self-identified leftists, it is clear that voting for Le Pen is not an option. The question is whether they will vote for Macron, or abstain. A report on Tuesday showed that two-thirds of Mélenchon supporters planned to do the latter.

Others, in the meantime, may have gotten a nudge from Charlie Hebdo — the iconoclastic satirical weekly targeted in the 2015 deadly terrorist attack — which features a memorable cover this week. For the first time in memory, the magazine chose not to feature the work of a cartoonist on the cover: "Do we really need to make a drawing?" it asked rhetorically, using the French-language equivalent of "Do we really need to spell it out?"

The latest front pages from Left-leaning daily Libération were more explicit. Yesterday it was: "Why it is still NO" with a looming photo of Le Pen. Today's cover line reads: "Journey to the End of the Neither/Nor," a reference to Louis-Ferdinand Céline's 1932 novel.

Back in 2002, when Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, passed the first round of the French election with more than 16% of the vote, to face center-right President Jacques Chirac, the Left almost unanimously rallied around Chirac, who won the second round with a whopping 82.2%.

Though polls show Macron with a sizeable 20-point lead, analysts caution that there is still much uncertainty around those on the Left who will actually vote for Macron despite their objections. One 32-year-old Mélenchon supporter told Libération that she will not vote for Macron on Sunday.

Voting against Marine Le Pen is the best way to be able to democratically fight against Emmanuel Macron.

"He is part of the system, of the oligarchy," Claire Bossuet of the southern city of Toulon, told the daily. "What really scares me is that voting Macron will put us to sleep for five years, and then the problem will be the same."

Another Mélenchon supporter, however, plans to cast his vote for Macron as the ultimate safeguard of French democracy. "I will vote against Marine Le Pen, which requires voting for Emmanuel Macron," said Baudouin Woehl, a student in Paris. "He will be the guarantor of the institutions that provide me with the means to oppose his policies. Voting against Marine Le Pen is the best way to be able to democratically fight against Emmanuel Macron."

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