Independent Reports: Three weeks from the first round of voting, a surge in support for the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon threatens to scramble forecasts for the French presidential elections. An opinion poll published yesterday put Mr Mélenchon, 60, in third place with 15 per cent of the vote – the highest for a candidate of the anti-capitalist left since the heyday of the French Communist party 30 years ago.
The rise of Mr Mélenchon, a kind of Gallic George Galloway who fulminates eloquently against the mainstream élites of both centre-right and centre-left, has relegated Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front into fourth position. For President Nicolas Sarkozy and his principal challenger, the Socialist candidate François Hollande, the emergence of Mr Mélenchon is a double-edged sword – helpful but dangerous.
Yesterday’s poll by LH2 for Yahoo! showed Mr Hollande retaining a narrow lead of 28.5 per cent to Mr Sarkozy’s 27.5 per cent in the first round on 22 April. Other recent polls have suggested that Mr Sarkozy, boosted by his hard-right rhetoric and exploitation of the Toulouse murders, has taken a one or two-point first-round lead.