France’s left must unite to triumph in the presidential election, activists say

More than 180,000 people have signed a petition calling on left-wing parties in France to unite in the country’s upcoming 2022 presidential election to defeat a number of right-leaning figures.

Activists have organized a “Popular Primary” that would present a single “social and ecological” candidate to run in the April election.

“The message of this popular primary election is to say that we have ecological emergencies and social emergencies that we can not deny. We must act and to act we must win the next election. And to win it is simple, we must be together and do not be divided, says Cléo Belaïche, spokesperson for the association behind the primary effort, to Euronews.

They have reduced this “citizen-led” presidential prime minister to ten candidates who have until November 30 to decide whether to vote in January.

There are three main candidates on the left who have currently already declared that they will run for president: Yannick Jadot, who won the Green Party’s primary election; Anne Hidalgo from the Socialist Party; and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, from his far-left party France Unbowed.

They are also named as part of the 10 candidates – five women and five men – in the popular primary election.

While Jadot, Hidalgo and Mélenchon have not expressed interest in running in the popular primary, three other selected candidates have agreed to run.

But all three of them are currently below 8 percent, according to an IFOP poll in October, far behind incumbent Emmanuel Macron, far-right figures Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, and right-wing Xavier Bertrand, who will run for the Republican nomination in December.

“What is clear is that if there is not a single left-wing candidate, then there is a very, very small chance that any of these left-wing candidates can win the election. So in a way, they have to agree if they want to win,” says Simon Persico, a researcher at SciencesPo Grenoble who specializes in environmentalists.

But Persico says it is unlikely to happen because each of the candidates wants to continue to exist in the French system.

“The presidential election is really important to exist in the political landscape,” Persico said, adding that support for another candidate could have repercussions on their parties.

Popular Primary activists do not give up.

They have held sit-ins outside each of the three-party headquarters to put pressure on ecologists, socialists and the far-left France Unbowed to get behind the primary election.

They say that efforts are high in a climate crisis and increasing social inequalities.

A recent study demonstrated the impact of actions taken during Macron’s presidency: it claimed that the richest 1% saw the largest increase in purchasing power and that only the poorest 5% of households did not see their standard of living increase during his administration.

“We need a primary election because citizens need to reconnect with politics to decide who will be able to represent ideas in order to respond to ecological and social emergencies in 2022,” Belaïche said.

She also lamented the rising turnout in France’s elections.

Catherine Corsini, a director who recently released a film set in a hospital during a Gilets Jaunes protest, said in an interview that it was unbelievable that there was no more of a will on the left to agree.

“Every time a new candidate is announced, it annoys me. I wanted to beat them,” she told Mediapart in a video interview.

The initiative has attracted attention in part due to the number of signatures it has received – already greater than the Green Party’s primary election and the number of Socialist party members.

It is even greater than the number of party members who will vote in the right-wing Republican Party in early December.

It has also received support from some of the well-known political figures selected by supporters to run in the popular primary election.

“Gathering is a very difficult challenge, but it is in demand by young people who are more committed and impatient than ever,” tweeted former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, one of the ten candidates.

Taubira, who has said she would not run for president in 2022 not to add to the number of candidates, supports the primary election and told the organizers that they were right that in 2022 they needed to bring about change.

“Popular Primary” will take place between January 13 and 16 and would use a majority voting system in which voters rank their approval of as many candidates as they want.

“We have much more in common between us than we have in common with Mr Zemmour, with Macron or with Le Pen,” Belaïche said.

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