Christian Taubira joins French presidential race in bid to rally the divided left

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On Saturday, beloved former French justice minister Christian Taubira launched her bid to unite the faltering French left and challenge President Emmanuel Macron in April’s presidential election, but she faces a slew of rival candidates who are reluctant to relinquish the spotlight.

“I commit myself here before you because I share your ambitions for another kind of government,” Toubira told her supporters in Lyon at the official launch of her campaign.

Toubira, justice minister in Socialist President Francois Hollande’s administration from 2012 to 2017, criticized Macron’s “top-down power and lack of social dialogue”, promising to fight for higher wages and better conditions for schoolchildren and students as well as the health service and environmental protection.

Toubira, 69, was born in the French Guiana region of South America where she worked as a Member of Parliament. She is admired on the left for her fight for a law recognizing the slave trade as a crime against humanity, and for directing same-sex marriage into the law books in 2013 as Minister of Justice.

We will do all this together, because we are capable of it,” she said to a cheering crowd, holding up signs that read “With Tobira.”

But it risks becoming only one of six candidates vying for votes among about 30 percent of left-leaning voters.

They range from controversial Jean-Luc Mélenchon – the highest rating in opinion polls compiled by JDD Weekly at nearly 10 per cent – to Green Party candidate Yannick Gadot and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo at 6.5 and 3.5 per cent.

An opinion poll conducted in January gave Tobira about 4.5 percent support.

“If she somehow succeeds in uniting the reformist who left her behind, her candidacy could be a game-changer,” political analyst Thomas Ginolli told France 24 on Monday, while swiftly warning: “Without unity, she will only become another one. An element of the ‘Balkan’ left ( and despair).

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On the right, three rivals – conservative Valérie Pécresse, traditional far-right leader Marine Le Pen and rebel TV analyst Eric Zemmour – have some odds of facing the incumbent Macron in the second round of the election.

Although the president himself has not yet announced his candidacy, he has the highest first-round polling rates at about one in four voters.

Toubira’s supporters argue she has the potential to stir up “excitement” among leftists, who have been the biggest losers after the traditional left-right political divide collapsed since Macron’s surprise presidential victory in 2017.

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Christian Paul, a supporter of Toubira and mayor of the small town of Lourmes in central France, said the former minister “wants to be the weary antidote among left-wing voters, who can’t stand any further division”.

One of the tools that Tobira has staked on is the so-called “popular primaries” of some 120,000 registered voters that will crown the preferred leftist candidate.

But while Tobira has vowed to respect the outcome, other major candidates have refused to get involved in the process.

(France 24 with AFP)

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