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Left-wing candidates dismiss united front ahead of French presidential elections

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By Euronews  with AP
Supporters of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour wave French flags during a campaign rally at the Palais des Victoires in Cannes,
Supporters of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour wave French flags during a campaign rally at the Palais des Victoires in Cannes,   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Daniel Cole   -  

The French left runs divided and weakened in the presidential race as at least five main candidates rejected any alliance with each other — and an online vote meant to pick a leader Sunday appears doomed to fail.

Left-wing supporters have organised the so-called Popular Primary as an initiative meant to unite their ranks before the election scheduled in two rounds on April 10 and 24.

More than 460,000 people registered for the primary and the results of the four-day online vote are expected on Sunday evening. But the move already appears bound to fail: key contenders said they wouldn't respect the outcome because they don't respect the process.

At least five leading figures from the left and the far-left are running for president, in addition to more minor candidates.

At the moment, none of them appears in a position to reach the runoff in April's election.

Centrist president Emmanuel Macron, who does not hide his intention to run for reelection, is considered the front-runner.

According to polls, conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse and two far-right figures, Marine le Pen and Eric Zemmour, are the main challengers, placing far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in the fifth position.

Melenchon — a political firebrand with a notorious temper — refuses to form a united front with other left-wing candidates.

The 70-year-old politician, who heads the "Rebel France" party, promised to guarantee jobs for everyone, raise the minimum wage, lower the retirement age to 60 and hike taxes on multinationals and wealthy households. He also vowed to reduce the COVID-19 pandemic measures.

The Greens' contender, Yannick Jadot, 54, and the Socialist candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, 62, also rejected the idea to run together despite a formerly traditional alliance between their parties.

Another candidate, Fabien Roussel, 52, runs for the Communist Party.

Hidalgo's campaign so far failed to prompt enthusiasm from leftist voters. Her once-powerful party remains weakened after the election in 2017 of Macron — when Socialist President Francois Hollande decided not to run for reelection amid unprecedented popularity.

Jadot unveiled on Saturday his electoral platform during a rally in Lyon, saying climate change is the "biggest challenge" to face.

"Tomorrow's France must get out of energies of the past," he said. He promised not to build any new nuclear reactor in France and progressively replace the old ones with renewable energy, which he said could take up to 25 years. France relies on nuclear power for 70 per cent of its energy.

Jadot also vowed to combat social injustice via ensuring a minimum revenue of 920 euros financed by the state to all adults living in poverty.

Earlier this month, another well-known figure of the left, former justice minister Christiane Taubira, joined the race in the hope of convincing others to join forces behind her candidacy.

So far, it hasn't worked. Critics and rivals said her candidacy is further splintering the left.

Taubira, 69, is a staunch feminist and a champion of minorities. She is revered for championing a same-sex marriage bill into French law in 2013.

She last ran for president in 2002, the first Black woman to do so in France, and she garnered 2.3 per cent of the vote.

She agreed to participate in the "Popular Primary" along with some more minor candidates.

"It's embracing democracy, and democracy offers no guarantees. The outcome is unpredictable. It's a risk, but it's a risk we have chosen to take together," Taubira told her supporters this week in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

But Jadot, Hidalgo and Melenchon said they would not comply with the result of the vote.