France’s well-liked former justice minister Christiane Taubira on Saturday launched her bid to unify the floundering French left and challenge President Emmanuel Macron in April presidential elections, but she faces a slew of competing candidates reluctant to cede the limelight.
“I’m committing myself here before you because I share your aspiration for another kind of government,” Taubira told supporters in Lyon at the official launch of her campaign.
Taubira, the justice minister in the 2012 to 2017 administration of Socialist President François Hollande, blasted “top-down power and absence of social dialogue” under Macron and promised to fight for higher wages, better conditions for school pupils and students as well as the health service and environmental protection.
Taubira, 69, was born in the French South American territory of Guiana where she served as an MP. She is admired on the left after fighting for a law recognising the slave trade as a crime against humanity, and for guiding same sex marriage onto the statute books in 2013 as justice minister.
“We will do all of this together, because that’s what we’re capable of,” she told a cheering crowd brandishing signs reading “With Taubira”.
But she risks becoming just one among six candidates scrambling for votes among the roughly 30 percent of the electorate that leans left.
They range from firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon – the top-rated in polls compiled by the JDD weekly at close to 10 percent – to Greens candidate Yannick Jadot and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo at 6.5 and 3.5 percent.
A January poll credited Taubira with around 4.5 percent support.
“If she somehow manages to unite the reformist left behind her, then her candidacy could be a game-changer,” political analyst Thomas Guénolé told FRANCE 24 on Monday, while quickly cautioning: “Without unity, however, she will become just one more element in a ‘Balkanised’ (and hopeless) left.”
On the right, three challengers – conservative Valerie Pécresse, traditional far-right leader Marine Le Pen and insurgent TV pundit Éric Zemmour – have some prospect of taking on incumbent Macron in the election’s second round.
Although yet to declare his candidacy, the president himself enjoys the highest first-round poll ratings at around one in four voters.
Taubira’s backers argue that she has the power to stoke “ardour” among left-wingers, who have been the biggest losers after the collapse of the traditional left-right political divide since Macron’s shock 2017 presidential win.
The former minister “wants to be the antidote to the weariness among left voters, who can’t stand any more fragmentation,” said Christian Paul, a Taubira supporter and mayor of the small town of Lormes in central France.
One tool Taubira has bet on is a so-called “People’s Primary” of around 120,000 registered voters that will crown the favoured left-wing candidate.
But while Taubira has pledged to respect the result, other key candidates have refused to sign up to the process.
Sources: FRANCE 24 with AFP