France’s traditional left is waging a dynamic campaign for European elections next month under commentator turned politician Raphael Glucksmann, threatening to relegate the alliance of President Emmanuel Macron into a humiliating third place but also causing friction with the radical left.
Polls have shown that the joint list of Place Publique, a progressive left movement co-founded by Glucksmann, and the Socialist Party (PS) is seriously challenging the centrist list of Macron’s coalition for second place in the June poll behind the far right who remain way ahead.
The trend represents a reversal of fortune for the traditional left in France, which hit a low in 2022 presidential elections when the candidate of the PS, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, won less than two percent of the vote in the first round.
That result saw the hard left of the France Unbowed (LFI) party, under firebrand radical Jean-Luc Melenchon, cemented as France’s main left-wing force ahead of the PS, the political home of former presidents Francois Hollande and the late Francois Mitterrand.
Latest polls have given Glucksmann’s list around 14% , well behind the far right on over 30% but getting close to the list of Macron’s party led by the little-known Valerie Hayer on just 16 to 17%.
“There is a clear dynamic” being established in favour of Glucksmann, said Gilles Finchelstein, secretary general of the Jean-Jaures Foundation think tank, adding “socialist sympathisers have become socialist voters again”.
Glucksmann, 44, known in France as an essayist and commentator before moving into politics and now an MEP, is credited with running a dynamic campaign that has sought to energise supporters with a positive message that is unabashedly pro-European and champions Ukraine.
The ratings for the list are soaring over what Glucksmann achieved in a similar position in 2019 when he could only muster just over 6% of the vote.
He describes Europe as the “fight of my life”, denounces “foreign interference in Europe” and says he is pained by the success of the far right in leading the polls which leaves a “lump in my stomach every morning”.
Seeking to create distance from Macron’s centrist politics, he denounces free trade treaties, and calls for an overhaul of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and a tax on “superprofits”.
He launched the campaign in the south of France in March, entering to the track “Lose Yourself” by the rapper Eminem and asking the audience “are we witnessing the disintegration of European democracies or, on the contrary, their awakening?”
He attacked Macron and his government as “leaders without a backbone” and “sleepwalkers”, saying: “We are not made of the same brittle matter as the president and his cronies, we do not change our speech depending on the audience”.
“We do not flatter the extreme right — we fight it,” he added.
But his stance and success, even dubbed by some on social media as “Glucksmania” has angered the hard left and Melenchon.
Glucksmann withdrew from a May 1 march in Saint-Etienne after slogans were shouted against him and paint thrown after he arrived. The LFI insisted it was not to blame.
The son of philosopher Andre Glucksmann, Raphael Glucksmann has already had a chequered political career.
He served as advisor from 2008-2012 to the strongly pro-Western former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, a staunch foe of Russia after the 2008 war between the two nations.
Glucksmann was in a relationship with Saakashvili’s deputy interior minister Eka Zgouladze with whom he has a son.
Like Saakashvili himself and several of his supporters, Zgouladze left for Ukraine and took Ukrainian nationality after a change of government in Georgia, also becoming Ukrainian deputy interior minister for a time. Glucksmann’s partner is now the prominent French TV and radio journalist Lea Salame, with whom he also has a son.
But it remains unclear if the strong poll showings will be carried into voting day, let alone translate into success at a national level with the next presidential elections in 2027.
“Glucksmann is profiting from the weakness of his opponents,” said pollster Brice Teinturier of Ipsos, in an analysis of the latest poll in the *Le Monde daily, adding he was “quite simply waging a good campaign” as the “right person in the right place”.
But he added while it was “on paper” possible that Glucksmann could overtake Hayer, there was also a risk for him that Macron voters could mobilise at the end of the campaign and left-wing voters move to the Greens and LFI.
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