French left-winger Melenchon to run for presidency in upset for Hollande

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 11, 2016 3:53 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - French leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon said he will run for the presidency again next year, a move which could dent Socialist President Francois Hollande's chances of re-election.

A former Socialist lawmaker, Melenchon gained 11.1 percent of the votes on the first round of the last presidential election in 2012, helped by Communist backing.

Their Left Front union has not fared well in local elections since, but 64-year-old Melenchon could sap votes from Hollande.

A Viavoice poll on Tuesday showed 10 percent of left-wing voters consider Melenchon the best candidate for the Left in 2017, only three percentage points behind Hollande.

"I am presenting my candidacy for 2017," Melenchon said on a video posted on his website. "This election can be a chance for the people. It is the opportunity to turn the page peacefully and democratically on an unfair and cruel system our country and continent are sinking into."

Melenchon has not struck an alliance with the Communists this time and faces uncertainties about how to finance for a campaign, but his run is not good news for Hollande.

Hollande is trying to discourage candidacies to his left, arguing that they increase the risk that no left-wing candidate will make it to a run-off between the top two finishers on the first round of the 2017 election.

Opinion polls show far-right party leader Marine Le Pen is set to make it to the run-off, meaning there is only one other spot left, that would likely go either to former president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative party or to Hollande's Socialists.

Hollande is expected to announce a government reshuffle as early as Thursday, in a bid to reshape his team ahead of the 2017 presidential elections.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alister Doyle)