Tens of Thousands Rally in France Behind Call for 'Civic Insurrection'
Leftist Front presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon spoke in front of thousands of supporters on Sunday
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a leftist presidential candidate in France, is shaking up the country's presidential election with a sudden increase in popular support. Mélenchon, who is a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and is known for his sharp rhetoric against austerity measures and the excesses of capitalism, now polls at 11 percent for the first round of elections. This marks a significant jump for the candidate, but he is still well behind the two front-runners for the Presidency -- Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande and incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, are both getting about 27 percent of popular support for the first round of elections.
Mélenchon's sudden surge in popularity culminated at a rally on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871, where tens of thousands of the candidate's supporters were in attendance. At the rally, Mélenchon said that France should rise up in a "civic insurrection." The former teacher spent 30 years in the Socialist party, where he served as a minister and senator, before leaving to form his own Front de Gauche or "Leftist Front" in 2008. The front represents a variety of leftist groups in France. The UK Guardian called the event "an important show of force for France's 'Left of the Left,' buoyed by the financial crisis and disillusionment with the main political parties."
Hollande, sensing pressure from her left, has suggested that voting for Mélenchon will help elect the conserative Sarkozy. Mélenchon denies these charges.
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Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the charismatic far-left firebrand whose anti-capitalist stance has seen him rise sharply in the French presidential polls, on Sunday told a vast Paris street rally that France should rise up in a "civic insurrection".
Mélenchon's symbolic open-air rally at the Place de la Bastille, emblem of the French revolution, attracted tens of thousands in an important show of force for France's "Left of the Left", buoyed by the financial crisis and disillusionment with the main political parties.
The MEP – who is famous for his scathing, banker-bashing rhetoric – is running for president representing a coalition of leftists which includes the once-powerful Communist party.
A one-time Trotskyist and former teacher, he spent 30 years in the Socialist party, where he served as a minister and senator, before leaving to form his own Front de Gauche or Leftist Front.
He recently surged above the 10% mark in the polls, a sharp rise which has eaten into the score of the Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande and delighted the rightwing president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking to exploit differences on the left in his difficult battle for re-election.
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Tens of thousands marched in Paris on Sunday to support firebrand leftist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has shaken up France's election campaign with a surprise jump in the polls.
Melenchon of the Left Front, who represents a coalition of leftist parties including the Communists, has emerged as a significant factor in the campaign just as Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande faces a resurgent threat from incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.
His virulent attacks on the rich, France's elite and austerity measures have struck a chord with many voters and polls this week showed him surpassing the symbolic 10 percent mark, up four points from the start of the year, with only five weeks to go before the April 22 first round of voting.
Waving a sea of red Left Front and Communist Party flags, tens of thousands of supporters marched through central Paris under cloudy skies in a symbolic rally to "retake the Bastille" -- the square where the medieval fortress and prison was stormed during the iconic moment of the French Revolution.
Organisers said more than 100,000 people took part in the rally, held on the anniversary of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871 and which was to end with a speech by Melenchon at Place de la Bastille.
"Melenchon represents the only political force that truly represents the French people," supporter Sylvianne Tardieu, a 50-year-old Communist from the central city of Clermont-Ferrand, said at the rally.
"He is fighting against the world of finance for the French people," she said.
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