By Camille Camdessus -- Jean-Luc Melenchon, 65 and leader of the "Unsubmissive France" coalition, based on an alliance with the French Communist Party, is the far-left candidate in the country's presidential race. As European deputy for the southwest of France, he was member of the Socialist Party (SP) until 2008, when he left it, saying the country "needed another voice on the left." A two-time candidate, having ran in the 2012 presidential race, Melenchon has this time bet on a more modern campaign: his YouTube channel has just hit 300,000 followers. Riding on his powerful oration skills, he has gone from being fifth in the polls just a few weeks ago to becoming a serious potential contender in the second round of voting.
Power to the People?
Melenchon has built his campaign on criticism of the current "presidential monarchy," in which he says the parliament is under the yoke of executive power. Melenchon says he will create a constituent assembly of randomly selected citizens charged with drafting a new constitution to be approved by referendum. The far-left candidate also advocates for increased labor power. Melenchon has pledged that under his presidency, the highest wage in a company would not exceed 20 times the lowest. Lobbies in the Parliament would be prohibited. These plans have met with strong criticism, notably from the head of the French employers federation, who said the policies would lead to "absolute catastrophe."
Melenchon is opposed to current budgetary treaties and the 3 percent deficit rule, and advocates for the renegotiation of these agreements. He has said that he will push for a referendum on a "Frexit" if these negotiations fail. Many have called him out on this approach, warning that such actions would contribute to the destruction of Europe. He is also a staunch supporter of a sovereign, independent military, advocating for "an independent France at the service of peace."
If elected, he said, he would have France immediately leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
One original proposition from Melenchon is amending the Constitution to include the "green rule": Not to take more from nature than is replenished, and not to produce more than it can withstand.
He also wants France to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, making him the candidate with the most ambitious goals in terms of transiting to sustainable power.
He says he will be able to achieve such objectives through a 100-billion-euro investment focused on energy transition, which he also expects would stimulate France's economy.