Mélenchon's team urge 'not one vote for Le Pen' but stop short of backing Macron

Kim Willsher in Paris
Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s spokesman said supporters did not need a ‘moral lesson’ on how to vote. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s election team has urged his supporters not to cast a single vote for the far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the final runoff in two weeks’ time.

The hard-left firebrand, however, stopped short of joining the “anti-Le Pen bloc” and supporting a vote for the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.

“Not a single vote should go to the FN [Front National],” Mélenchon’s spokesman Alexis Corbière told journalists on Wednesday. “Not one.”

He said the France Unbowed movement led by Mélenchon was consulting its 440,000 members on whether they supported abstaining, casting a blank vote, or voting for Macron in the second round runoff vote on 7 May.

“Clearly, there is no question of an FN vote ... and we are not saying, neither one nor the other. Let me be clear, again, nothing will make us want one single vote to go to the FN.”

He said Les Insoumis, as Mélenchon supporters are called, did not need advice or a “moral lesson” on how to vote. Mélenchon is not expected to say how he intends to vote or to advise his supporters. The result of the consultation will be published next Tuesday.

Corbière said none of the three options being considered was “immoral”.

“Our friends who want to vote Macron will vote Macron and those who want to vote blank will vote blank. That’s it,” Corbière said. “But nobody should vote FN.”

Manuel Bompard, director of Mélenchon’s election campaign, said abstaining was not the movement’s preferred choice. “Some of our supporters want to do that, and we respect them, but it’s not our preference.”

Asked why Mélenchon had advised supporters to vote for the conservative candidate against the FN’s Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, but would not advise voting against his daughter this time, Bompard said: “The context and political situation are different, but don’t expect me to say the FN has changed or Marine Le Pen is different. That’s a smokescreen. The basis [of the FN] remains exactly the same.”

Mélenchon came fourth in Sunday’s first round of the presidential election with 19.6% of votes – representing 7 million voters – narrowly behind the conservative mainstream candidate François Fillon. His highest score was in the working class Paris banlieue of Seine-Saint-Denis, where he received 34% of the vote.

Corbière said Mélenchon had been prevented from getting into the second round by the “stupid strategy” of the Socialist party, whose candidate Benoît Hamon plunged to fifth place with a historic low of 6% of the vote.

“Everyone needs to be examining their conscience,” he said, adding: “There are different opinions and we are not limiting ourselves to the two choices – vote FN or vote Emmanuel Macron. That’s not our vision of the political landscape and it’s not what we have all worked for.”

Asked why Mélenchon had not appeared since his declaration on Sunday evening, his team said he would be back in action “in the next few days” with a view to fighting the legislative election campaign, which follows the presidential race.

“He’s very well,” Corbière said. “He’s on good form. He’s still on the horse and his appetite for political battle is still very strong.”

A poll by Elabe for BFMTV suggests 53% of Mélenchon’s voters will go to Macron and 16% to Le Pen. The rest will either spoil their vote or abstain.

Polls suggest Macron will win the runoff with 49%, Le Pen will poll 28%, and there will be an above average abstention of 23% that might be elevated because 7 May is on a bank holiday weekend.

In the rue Faubourg Saint Denis, not far from Mélenchon’s campaign headquarters, Macron supporters were out in force on Wednesday handing out copies of his programme.

Franck, in his 20s, brushed an outstretched hand aside: “No, not him,” he said walking on quickly. “I voted Mélenchon last Sunday, but I have absolutely no interest in the second round.

“A Le Pen vote is out of the question, but I just can’t vote for Macron. Not even to keep the FN out.”

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