A FRENCH presidential election that was expected to give a boost to far-right Marine Le Pen of the National Front has instead been dominated by left-wing rhetoric from the leading candidate, Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party, and a strong showing by Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Mélenchon, a former minister in the Socialist Party government of Lionel Jospin in the late 1990s and an ex-senator, broke from the center-left party in 2008 to cofound the Left Party, which in turn formed the Left Front with the Communist Party and a range of other left-wing organizations.
Widely dismissed by political analysts as irrelevant just months ago, Mélenchon has instead forced the entire political debate to the left as his support in the upcoming presidential vote registers at 15 percent in public opinion polls ahead of the first round of presidential voting on April 22.
"We're back--the France of revolution!" he told a crowd of several thousand in the central French town of Vierzon . "If Europe is a volcano, then France is the revolutionary crater."
Mélenchon's campaign platform marks a break from the Socialist Party's typical pro-business rhetoric. He calls for a 20 percent increase in minimum wage, a ban on layoffs by profitable companies, a heavy tax on financial transactions, and annual limits on incomes to $472,000, with anything over that amount going to taxation.
However, notwithstanding Mélenchon's break with the Socialists, he's still prepared to make an electoral deal with them. A Mélenchon campaign staffer announced on April 6  that the candidate would support "the left-wing candidate who's in front" after the first round of voting--essentially, offering an advance endorsement of Hollande, who is ahead in the polls over conservative incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Because Hollande will need the support of Mélenchon voters in the expected second-round run-off vote against Sarkozy on May 6, Hollande has been compelled to ratchet up his own left-wing rhetoric, pledging to raise the top tax rate to 75 percent on the wealthiest people in France. "The world of finance is my adversary," Hollande declared.