Support for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is growing. The FT's Michael Stothard reports on how this increased popularity has put him in line with François Fillon and a few points behind Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
Produced and edited by Daniel Garrahan. Footage by Reuters
On Monday, while his opponents will hold the more traditional rallies Jean Luc Melenchon was on a barge. Floating down the canals of Paris. And giving fiery speeches along the way about the evils of high finance, free trade, and the European Union.
On Tuesday, he made a speech in Dijon, Grenoble, Nant, and four other French cities. All at the same time, using the power of hologram. Jean Luc Melenchon is the wild card in the French presidential election. After a late surge in support in recent weeks, down to in part, his innovative campaign strategy.
He has risen from 11% in the polls last month, to 19%. Putting him in line with centre right former favourite, Francois Fillon, and only a few points behind the centrist Emmanuel Macron, and far right leader Marine Le Pen.
The 65-year-old former socialist minister who wants to impose protectionist trade barriers and introduce 100% top tax rate, has benefited from that severe weakness of the ruling socialist party after five years of the unpopular president, Francois Hallonde.
With the socialist beset by infighting, Melenchon has become the candidate representing the left in France. This is in part because he's outclassed his opponents in the two national televised debates. He also speaks directly to his fans on his popular YouTube channel.
But he also seems to be having fun. His campaign made an online video game called Fiscal Combat, where you play as a super powered Melenchon shaking money from tax dodgers. You also get to attack right wing political figures, such as former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Or the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.
Fun or not, his rise has spooked the markets. Fears are growing that Mr. Melenchon, and Ms. Le Pen could top the first round of voting on Sunday. Meaning, that on the final May 7 election, France would have the choice only between two anti-globalization, and anti-European candidates.
Investors say French bond yield would skyrocket if Mr. Melenchon is elected. His supporters care little for the bond market, however. They appreciate having a candidate that represents the hard French left.
They also appreciate his speeches. Which are at once cerebral, laced with quotes from classical literature and French poets, and angry. Calling bankers parasites. And saying that free trade destroys everything.
His is still, at this stage, a long shot to win the election, say pollsters. But all will depend on the next few days of campaigning, which is an area where Jean Luc Melenchon truly excels.