At the University of Paris Nanterre, the birthplace of the 1968 student revolution in France, Caroline Houtchem spent her lunchtime handing out flyers and rallying in support of the “honest” leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.
“We need to turn to the right,” said the 23-year-old, who is campaigning on campus ahead of the first round of the French presidential election on April 10.
“Melenchon is someone who thinks he’s honest… He has a program that he’s had for a long time and you can say he believes in it. It’s very structured and well thought out,” he said.
Melenchon, 70, is benefiting from opinion polls as he makes his third bid for Elysee – in a run-off against 2017 final winner Emmanuel Macron. This time around, he is likely to be upset in the first round, depending in part on how he treats young voters.
His brand of extremist socialism associated with environmentalism has previously proved victorious with young Frenchmen. Melenchon received more first-round votes among 18-25-year-olds than Macron or right-wing Marine Le Pen in a poll five years ago.
Although his program hasn’t changed much since 2017, he is being helped by raising awareness about the climate crisis and growing interest in the environmental issues he has long championed. Green issues top the list of concerns among French voters in a poll to rank behind only Russia’s war in Ukraine and the high cost of living.
But indulging young people creates a special problem because those under 35 are more likely to abstain than older voters. The survey found that one in four young voters said they could stay away this time.
“A lot of people are telling us they’re still thinking about the election,” said Hauchem, a young Melenchon supporter.
Melanchon, polling 15 percent of the overall vote, is still five percentage points behind Le Pen, while Macron is leading with 28 percent. Other left-wing parties are trailing in the polls, with the Socialists at just 2 percent. Even if Melenchon wins the second round of voting on April 24, polls suggest he will lose the race against the incumbent president.
Born in French-ruled Morocco to a teaching mother and a father who worked in the postal service, Melenchen moved to France as a child. Active in various student movements, Franোয়াois Mitterrand joined the Socialists in the late 1970’s before becoming president and later served as a government minister. In 2008 he split from the party to start his far-left movement.
The combination of his radical leftist proposals – ranging from “jobs for all” to plans to bring the retirement age back to 60 – has helped cement the radical appeal of Melenchon and his French insomnia, as well as green ideas such as banning pesticides or cutting flight routes. (“France Unbod”) Party.
For young people, he wants to bring the voting age down to 16 and bring a paid civic service for under-25s. He will introduce an “autonomous grant” of more than € 1,000 per month to prevent students from falling into debt.
At a recent rally in Paris, where electro pop music and a rap performance enlivened the event, Melenchon paid tribute to the “innovation of youth” in a speech full of optimism. “Another world is possible,” he told supporters, speaking of the need to “create harmony between man and nature.”
Yet he is also a divided figure among leftists. Appreciated for his eloquence and social mentality, Melenchon is seen by many as an aggressive approach and has been criticized for pushing for a withdrawal from NATO. He has taken controversial views, including past expressions of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I’m not too bothered by his personality, but Melenchon is the only person who has assumed the form of a functioning socio-ecologist,” said Florent, another student who gathers troops on Nanter’s 1960s campus, where Melenchon competes for space with posters that rival other anti-capitalist candidates. For.
Analysts agree that one area where Melenchon supporters are picking is on the environment. His long engagement on the issue has also allowed him to win votes at the expense of the environmentally friendly Green Party, with which he shares policies such as opting out of nuclear power to create a power mix based on 100 percent renewable sources by 2050.
“He didn’t come up with it yesterday. He doesn’t give the impression of being opportunistic about the environment, “said Daniel Boy, a political scientist at Sciences Po University.
Comparing Europe’s ecology with Les Vert’s Yannick Jadot, surveys show that voters believe Melenchon’s “presidential status” is high, and that his outspoken, angry demeanor can play well, Boy said. “As long as they go out and vote, Melenchon could capture some young voters in rebellion mode,” Boy added.
French greens have scored a breakthrough in recent municipal and European elections, with Jadot stuck at about 5 percent of the vote.
Melenchon has attracted high-profile activists to his cause, including Aurélie Trouvé, former head of the campaign group Attack, known for his extinct insurgency-style work, such as occupying airport runways.
“I think if you are really an environmentalist you have to change the system,” he said on the sidelines of a recent rally in Paris.
Yet it can be difficult to motivate pro-environment voters. The issue had less airtime than issues pushed by right-wing candidates such as immigration and the debate over rising electricity prices and the cost of living. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has also spread widely in the election campaign.
Some young people struggle to reflect on the political response to their problems, regardless of how the epidemic has limited access to learning and raised concerns about job uncertainty or the climate crisis, said Laurent Lardex, a sociologist at INJEP. Focuses on youth and education.
“Young people see the environment as an absolute necessity and consider politics as something that does not have an immediate effect,” he said.
The story was told that Melanchan had joined the Socialist Party before Francois. Mitterrand’s election as president, not later.