French activists go on hunger strike to coerce the political left to reunite

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  • Anne Hidalgo
    Anne Hidalgo
    French politician, mayor of Paris

Twelve activists, including MEP Pierre Larrouturou, have begun a hunger strike to urge leftwing candidates in the upcoming presidential elections to pull together, which they say is the only way to make sure climate and social justice are prioritised.

With presidential polls less than four months away, the French left is far from presenting a united front.

It has five main candidates: Paris Mayor and Socialist Party candidate Anne Hidalgo, ecologist Yannick Jadot, hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Communist Fabien Roussel and former Socialist economy minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Christiane Taubira, the popular leftist former Justice Minister, is still "considering" her candidacy but has already expressed interest in a "left-wing coalition". She is to announce her decision on 15 January

On Friday, 12 activists, seven of whom present themselves as "young people of the climate generation", began a hunger strike to get this disparate bunch working together.

"Only the left-wing and green candidates are aware of the climate emergency and propose solutions that are equal to the challenge. But their divisions make victory impossible," the 12 activists said in a statement on Thursday.

A lot to lose

The group set up the "Popular Primary" and have been gathering signatures for an online vote late January to designate their candidate. 300,000 signatures have been collected so far.

Of the five official candidates, only Anne Hidalgo is openly in favour of a primary, but her efforts to unite have been snubbed so far.

A recent survey showed 85 percent of left-wing sympathisers were favourable to having just one candidate from the left, though a majority also thought this was impossible.

Opinion polls so far suggest there is little chance of a left-wing candidate making it through to the second round, and the hunger-striking activists say there's a lot to lose.

"The left has already lost elections, but in 2022 the situation is radically different: it is not just a failed election that is at stake, but the fate of our humanity," they write.

"The current divisions are discouraging a large number of voters, but if the rallying is done before mid-February, it is still possible to bring [the issues of] climate and social justice to the top," they say.

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