By Juliette Jabkhiro
LILLE (Reuters) – Far-left French candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon talked climate, feminism and cost of living at a rally on Tuesday in a bid to persuade youth and undecided voters ahead of Sunday’s ballot.
The first round of France’s presidential election is tipped to be a repeat showdown between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen, according to pollsters.
Leader of leftist party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Melenchon bills his candidacy as a “popular” alternative to counter the right. He says he would put a freeze on prices, increase salaries and strengthen public services to increase the purchasing power of the French.
The latest polls show Melenchon lagging behind Le Pen with 15% to 16.5% ratings, but the political veteran has not given up, as he told a crowd in Lille where he held his last major presidential rally.
The event was broadcast in 11 other cities through hologram technology, attracting a total of about 20,000 supporters across France, according to a spokesperson for the campaign.
Many young people could be seen at the Lille venue, suggesting that the best chance for the 70-year-old to reach the second round might be to appeal to youthful voters.
In 2017, more than a fifth of French voters sat out at least one round, and a disproportionate number of abstainers were youngsters, official data shows.
“We have no time to lose,” Melenchon said of the climate crisis, promising to use “all human, intellectual, financial, social and cultural means” to honour the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
He also appealed to progressive values, saying a “feminist revolution” was under way and pleading to “rehumanize society.”
He criticized Le Pen, arguing her political platform would not greatly help workers’ purchasing power, and calling on the “angry” – including the Yellow Vests – to consider voting for him instead.
The Yellow Vests, named after motorists’ high-visibility jackets, emerged in late 2018 in protest against fuel taxes and the cost of living, posing a major challenge to Macron as demonstrations spread across France.
“We can do things differently, convince people around you,” said Melenchon, pushing a last plea to convince French voters that the left wing should be in the second round.
(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro in Lille; Editing by Matthew Lewis)