'Macron or Le Pen: It's like choosing between the plague or cholera'

We ask Mélenchon supporters about their voting intentions as a poll claims 23% of the left-wing candidate’s supporters now plan to back Le Pen

Malik Yahiatène and Aurélien Riche are two La France Insoumise activists who say they will not vote for Ms Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election.
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Several hardcore supporters in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s grassroots La France Insoumise voter base have told The Connexion they will not vote for Marine Le Pen nor Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election on April 24.

They said that they will either spoil their ballot paper or abstain from voting altogether.

Mr Mélenchon, who finished third in the first round of the presidential election on April 10, told his 7.7 million voters to “not to give a single vote” to Ms Le Pen (Rassemblement national). However, he did not specifically tell his voters to cast a ballot for Mr Macron.

Read more: Who gets the vote of the ten non-qualifier French election candidates?

Read more: Expressions you may hear in the lead up to final French election vote

“Mr Macron is an adversary. Ms Le Pen is an enemy,” was the general message from Mélenchon supporters we spoke to.

However, a poll commissioned by TF1 and published on April 10 claims 23% of Mr Mélenchon’s voters plan to back Ms Le Pen in the second round. It also shows that 33% plan to vote for Macron, while 44% intend to spoil their vote or not vote at all.

Some 7,714,574 people voted for Mr Mélenchon in the first round of the election on Sunday (21.95%), meaning his supporters will be key for Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen, who are polling almost neck-and-neck for the April 24 run-off.

Eric Zemmour (far-right) - who attracted almost 2.5 million votes - has openly told his voters to switch to Le Pen.

Read more: French election: The chase is on for Mélenchon’s 7.7 million voters

‘Impossible to vote for Le Pen’

The Mélenchon supporters with whom The Connexion spoke said that they did not know fellow party activists who plan to vote for Ms Le Pen. Some raised doubts about the poll results suggesting 23% of them plan to back the far-right candidate. However, this group is not likely to be hardcore Mélenchon supporters but perhaps voters close to the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement or those who so violently oppose Macron they would vote Le Pen to block him.

“It is impossible to vote for Ms Le Pen. This would feed into the chaos theory,” said Aurélien Riche, 33, a teacher and Mélenchon activist in Lille. He said he would wait on Mr Macron’s proposals in the lead-up to the second round to decide.

“It is premature to choose between the plague and the cholera,” he added.

Mr Riche said the traditional division between right-wing and left-wing parties has shattered over the last 15 years and he is now left with a choice between a “hardline right” (Mr Macron) and far-right (Ms Le Pen.)

“You can’t position yourself over that divide when you are on the left,” he said.

Nathalie Samson, another Mélenchon hardcore supporter from Evreux (Normandy), said she is hesitating between not turning out or writing Mr Mélenchon’s name on the ballot (spoiling the vote).

She said she can understand the appeal behind Ms Le Pen when looking at proposals on spending power but said it seemed impossible to back her when reading her full programme.

Some of the activists we spoke to agreed when it was suggested that a second-round vote for Le Pen could come from voters close to the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement.

“It is hard to fight against Mr Macron but it’s impossible under Ms Le Pen,” said Malik Yahiatène, a 47-year-old secondary school mathematics teacher.

“My vote will not go to Ms Le Pen,” he said, adding he already knew how he would be voting in the second round but declined to disclose the information.

Only 8% in 2017

Most of the activists we spoke with said they would choose between spoiling their vote or not turning out, while several mentioned the example of Ms Samson and the idea of writing Mr Mélenchon’s name on the paper.

“It’s understandable some of our activists have difficulties voting for Mr Macron when you look at his time in office,” said Mr Riche.

He highlighted putting anti-immigrant quotes from Minister of Interior Gérald Darmanin, tensions with demonstrators during the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests or Mr Macron’s his retirement reform.

Mr Macron said he planned to push the legal age of retirement from 62 to 65 with a €1,100 monthly pension as part of a plan to reduce the annual pension deficit by €10billion.

Read more: Retirement at 65 (not 62) and €1,100 monthly pension: Macron’s plans

Mr Riche took the example of his mother’s working situation. If Mr Macron were to be reelected and implement his plan to increase the retirement age from 62 to 65, Mr Riche’s mother would need to work six more years before retiring as opposed to three with Ms Le Pen. Ms Le Pen said she would set the retirement age to 62.

Alain Franchet, 64, a retired technician and another Mélenchon activist living in southwest France, said he was not planning to vote in the second round.

He said the higher the abstention rate, the less legitimacy the chosen president will have over the population.

Another activist, Jean-Renaud Ferran, 34 and a civil servant, said: “I am thinking of the best way to make my voice heard. Is it abstaining or spoiling the vote? I do not know.”

Mr Mélenchon told his voters he will put forward a survey on his campaign website in the coming days to prompt his supporters to choose between three solutions: abstaining, spoiling their vote and voting for Mr Macron.
Mr Mélenchon put forward the same survey in 2017 during the latest presidential election, with 243,128 party members participating. It revealed that 36,12% spoiled their vote, 34,83% voted for Mr Macron and 29,03% abstained.

The Connexion was told by a party member that only 8% of La France Insoumise’s voters cast a ballot for Ms Le Pen in the second-round in 2017.

Not every activist agreed with the suggestion voting blank would favour or equal voting for Ms Le Pen, as it was sometime suggested in editorial news pieces during the latest presidential election.

Mélenchon’s fans are now looking forward to the legislative election in June in the hopes of increasing their MPs presence and pressure on the sitting president at the Assemblée nationale.

“There is still a third round ahead,” said Mr Ferran.

*Poll carried out by Ifop-Fiducial for French TV TF1 on April 10 between 20:01 and 21:00 on 968 people who enlisted in the presidential election.

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