French left-wing parties attempt to unite under ‘people’s primary’

France's multiple left-wing presidential candidates are set to be judged in a "people's primary" contest starting Thursday designed to reduce the crowded field.

French left-wing parties attempt to unite under 'people's primary'
Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

A total of 467,000 people have signed up to take part in the online vote which will see five professional politicians and two civil society candidates ranked on a scale from “very good” to “inadequate”.

The winner is set to be announced on Sunday, but the whole exercise looks doomed to fail given that hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, Greens candidate Yannick Jadot and Socialist contender Anne Hidalgo plan to ignore the result.

“There are better things to do 70 days from the first round of voting than an obscure primary,” Melenchon told supporters during a political meeting in Bordeaux this week.

The vote will give a snapshot of opinion on the left, however, and may boost the chances of former Socialist justice minister Christine Taubira, who is seen as the most likely candidate to be endorsed.

READ ALSO Who’s who in the crowded field of candidates in the presidential election

Melenchon, a former Trotskyist who heads La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, is currently polling the strongest in the flagging left-wing field at around 10 percent ahead of the first round of voting on April 10th.

Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, is on around three percent and Jadot on five, meaning all three would be eliminated and fail to make the second-round run-off vote.

President Emmanuel Macron is currently seen as the favourite to win the April 24th election, according to surveys, but analysts warn that the vote remains highly unpredictable.

READ ALSO Why the French left has declined into electoral irrelevance

France’s Socialist party, which was in power under president Fran├žois Hollande just five years ago, has seen its support disintegrate under pressure from Macron’s centrist political movement and shifts in public opinion.

Jobs, security and immigration are seen as top of voters’ concerns.

Hollande, who left office with catastrophic approval ratings, briefly sparked rumours he might be eyeing a comeback last weekend when he wondered aloud if “another candidate would serve a purpose?” during a discussion with schoolchildren.

“A former president can very well do politics again, and it has happened, be a candidate in the presidential election,” Hollande said.

His office moved quickly afterwards to clarify that he would not make a bid this year.

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Macron urges ‘tangible’ NATO security guarantees for Kyiv

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the West to offer Ukraine "tangible and credible" security guarantees as it battles Russia's invasion.

Macron urges 'tangible' NATO security guarantees for Kyiv

Stressing that Ukraine “is today protecting Europe”, Macron said in Bratislava that it is in the West’s interest that Kyiv have security assurances from NATO.

“That is why I’m in favour, and this will be the subject of collective talks in the following weeks… to offer tangible and credible security guarantees to Ukraine,” he added.

He said various NATO members could provide these guarantees for the time being as Ukraine waits to join the alliance.

“We have to build something between the security provided to Israel and full-fledged membership,” Macron said.

The French head of state is on a visit to Slovakia, where he delivered a speech at an event organised by the international affairs think tank Globsec.

The event, focussed on regional security issues, comes in the run-up to the NATO summit in Lithuanian capital Vilnius on July 11th-12th.

Macron recalled that he once called the Western defence alliance “brain dead” but said Russia’s invasion last year “had jolted NATO awake”.

“We need to help Ukraine today with all means to carry out an effective counter-offensive” against Russian forces, Macron said.

“It’s what we are currently doing. We have to intensify our efforts because what will happen in the next few months offers a chance even for… a lasting peace.”

Macron also called on EU nations to buy European arms and acquire in-depth strike capabilities.

“It is up to us Europeans to in the future have our own ability to defend ourselves,” he said.

“A Europe of defence, a European pillar within NATO, is indispensable. It’s the only way to be credible… in the long-term,” he said.

The French leader also called for EU enlargement, to bring more countries into the fold.

The European Union should “invent several formats” to meet the membership aspirations of countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, he said.

Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine itself are among the countries which have applied to join the European bloc, but conforming to the accession rules can be a difficult and timely procedure.

“Yes, it (the EU) must enlarge. Yes, it must be rethought in terms of its governance and its aims. Yes, it must innovate, no doubt, to invent several formats and clarify the aims of each of these formats,” Macron declared.

“This is the only way to meet the legitimate expectations of the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, which must join the European Union, and to maintain the geopolitical effectiveness, but also the climate, the rule of law and the economic integration of the European Union as it exists today,” he insisted.

The two alternatives are to make candidate nations “wait indefinitely” or to let them swiftly join the existing EU structure with the risk that the bloc will no longer be able to function.

Macron will next visit Moldova on Thursday where he will meet with fellow European leaders, including from outside the European Union.