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    French presidential election candidate for the left-wing French Socialist (PS) party Benoit Hamon (R) talks with an unionist of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) next to former presidential candidate for the Green Party Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) Yannick Jadot (C) during a visit at a fast-food on February 27, 2017 in Paris

    All for One, One for All: French Left Finds Fraternité in Hostility to Moscow

    © AFP 2017/ Philippe Lopez
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    The two leading French political parties in favor of maintaining and toughening anti-Russian policy, the Socialists and the Greens, have announced a merger of their programs and the nomination of a single candidate for April's presidential elections. Russian observers consider the moderate left's chances for victory.

    French Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon and Green Party leader Yannick Jadot reached an agreement on a joint candidacy on February 23, with Jadot giving up his election bid and endorsing Hamon; three days later, Green Party voters confirmed their party's support via e-voting. In his own party, Hamon is seen as a representative of the left-wing and green side of the Socialist Party.

    Joining forces, the moderate left now hopes that Hamon will be able to catch up to polling leaders, including the National Front's Marine Le Pen, the Republicans' Francois Fillon, and En Marche's Emmanuel Macron, each of whom are between 4.5-12 percentage points ahead of Hamon and the Socialists.

    Russian observers first took note of Hamon's anti-Russian stance during his party's primary campaign, which concluded in January, when he defeated former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and secured his party's nomination. 

    During the campaign, Hamon repeatedly accused President Francois Hollande, a fellow Socialist, of appeasing Russia. "This attitude of complacency with regard to Vladimir Putin – I cannot understand it! We're talking about an aggressive imperialism by the Russians, and we should respond with firmness, not complacency," Hamon said during one primary event. 

    In his own analysis on the Socialist-Green electoral alliance, RIA Novosti contributor Igor Gashkov pointed out that even among the batch of Socialist candidates, where a mild hostility toward Russia was seen as the norm, Hamon stood out.

    As for Jadot, he too has been just as firm an opponent to normalizing relations with Moscow. Last fall, in his capacity as an MP in the European Parliament, the politician demanded that President Hollande cancel Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Paris. Jadot's recommendations were taken into account, the meeting at Elysee Palace was shortened, and this resulted in Moscow cancelling the visit. During that campaign, the Green politician called Putin the "butcher of the Syrian city of Aleppo." 

    As Gashkov pointed out, "the unfriendly attitude toward Moscow is well within the tradition of the Socialist Party and the Greens. Russia is seen by France's moderate left as a country of the right wing political choice, and a reminder of the potential alternative for France itself – in the form of a victory by the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen." 

    Among the left, only the far-left Unsubmissive France Party and their candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon "retain an amicable attitude toward Moscow, with some reservations." As per the tradition of the far left, Melenchon is also skeptical toward the EU and globalization, but is skeptical of National Front's position on immigration.

    Before Jadot withdrew his candidacy, opinion polling saw him polling at about 15% of the vote. Combining the vote of the Socialists and the Greens is expected to give them about 20%. Experts have calculated that the expected threshold to making it into the second round of voting, which will take place May 7 following the April 23 first round, is about 25%. According to Gashkov, for Hamon to catch up with Emmanuel Macron and his centrists, the Socialists will be likely to seek a strategy of consolidating the country's Muslim voters around themselves.

    Hamon, the journalist recalled, has considered Muslims constituting the basis of his electorate throughout much of his career. "He was elected to France's parliament from Trappes, a majority of whose residents are Muslims. In a recent scandal surrounding the coffee shops of Saint-Denis (where Muslim owners didn't allow women into their shops), Hamon was perhaps the only one who took the side of the faithful. The unconventional position turned out extremely successful politically; Muslim votes allowed Hamon to achieve victory in the primaries."

    Furthermore, Gashkov noted, "Hamon is likely appealing to Muslim voters with his key economic program – the introduction of a guaranteed monthly income. Many of France's 6-8 million Muslims are unemployed. The opportunity to increase their income without employment is seen as an attractive alternative by this section of the population."

    Unfortunately for the Socialist, Emmanuel Macron is also competing for the Muslim vote. A year and a half ago, following the November 2015 Paris attacks, the politician said that France bore some of the responsibility for the radicalization of terrorists who committed the terrorist attacks. Since then, he has continued his fight, calling the colonization of Algeria a "crime against humanity," and saying that traditional French culture didn't exist.

    Ultimately, Gashkov noted that in their competition for the same electorate, Hamon and Macron "have to share not only common assets, but also a common liability. Both men served in the Hollande administration at the ministerial rank, and thus participated in the construction of a new French socialism, or putting it more mildly, 'in Hollandeism'. The result of the president's efforts has disappointed the vast majority of French voters – not least because Hollande could not keep his campaign promises. Whether or not his colleagues will be more effective remains to be seen – on the condition that France again opts for the left in this year's elections."

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    Tags:
    French presidential election, presidential election, analysis, Yannick Jadot, Benoit Hamon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Emmanuel Macron, Francois Hollande, Marine Le Pen, Francois Fillon, Russia, France
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