Jean-Luc Mélenchon wants to “widen his base” by presenting himself under the banner of the Union populaire, analyzes political scientist Rémi Lefebvre

Jean-Luc Mélenchon spoke to 2,000 activists this Sunday morning, October 17, at the end of the Union populaire convention in Reims. Under this new label, the presidential candidate seeks to get rid of a “rebellious France brand a little damaged”, after several electoral failures, and “welcome other political forces to broaden its base”, analysis on franceinfo Rémi Lefebvre. “It is objectively a bad start”, “Jean-Luc Mélenchon is quite isolated”, notes the professor of political science at the University of Lille, but “we are only at the very beginning of the campaign”.

franceinfo: What is the aim of the Popular Union? Can this change anything?

Remi Lefebvre : We have the impression that the partisan brand of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has changed. The term “rebellious France”, which was launched in 2016 to promote the 2017 presidential campaign, has disappeared, to make way for a new label. There are two reasons in my opinion for this. First of all, I think that the brand “France insoumise” was a little damaged, in particular by the intermediate elections. [européennes, municipales, régionales] which were not good for the movement of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. And then, then, in the “Popular Union”, it is a question of welcoming other political forces to widen the base of the candidate, and to give him a bonus to bring together the left. It is therefore a new electoral stage which has opened.

Can this “Popular Union” really be an instrument of alliances and rallies?

It is objectively badly started, it does not take the direction. After that, we are only at the very beginning of the campaign. Today, what Jean-Luc Mélenchon is trying to do is to reproduce what he had succeeded in doing in 2017. That is to say appear as the rallying candidate on the left, while expanding the electorate of the left, by addressing popular circles. The challenge for Jean-Luc Mélenchon is twofold: both to have leadership on the left, to win over the left challengers Yannick Jadot and Anne Hidalgo, and then to expand this electoral base to distant voters, like those from working-class circles, who today abstain a lot. For the moment, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is quite isolated. He appears to be a fairly divisive candidate in public opinion and among left-wing voters. It is difficult to see the link he could make with the other left forces. But we are still far from the first round of the presidential election.

In a month, La France insoumise will reissue L’Avenir en commun, the 2017 program, which will be amended, but the framework will remain the same for 2022. Is there a political risk here?

Yes and no. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s programmatic political offer is not going to change. This can give the impression of a form of non-adaptation to society. But he believes that the political offer he proposed in 2017 is still appropriate. This political offer must be recognized for having taken the ecological transition into account very early on. Ecosocialism is an old idea of ​​Jean-Luc Mélenchon. There is this idea of ​​stability, of consistency with him. It is an element that can disturb, but it is also an element, ultimately, of authenticity. To say : “I haven’t changed, I’m digging my way, I’m developing a political offer which, I believe, is still convincing.” And therefore rather to privilege the pedagogy to the novelty of the proposals.

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