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Christiane Taubira ahead in French left’s unofficial primary

PARIS — Former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira was proclaimed on Sunday the winner of an unofficial primary of the French left, a last-ditch attempt to rally left-leaning voters behind a single candidate ahead of the April presidential election.

However, that outcome is unlikely as other prominent candidates featuring on the ballot said before the vote that they would go on with their own campaigns whatever the result.

They include Green MEP Yannick Jadot, who finished in second position; far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came in third; and Socialist Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, who obtained an embarrassing fifth place — voters could choose between seven names dubbed qualified to run by the primary’s organizers.

The “People’s Primary” was organized by young grassroots activists seeking to unite the French left, pitting the major left-wing candidates against each other, mostly against their will.

Christiane Taubira was the only major candidate to willfully engage in the primary, crafting her presidential bid on a gamble that she would emerge victorious. Having announced her run only in mid-January, though, she appears to only be adding a new candidacy to a fractured left.

Mélenchon, the best placed of left-leaning candidates, is currently polling at 10 percent, according to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls, with none of his rivals making it to double-digit scores. Taubira is currently polling at 4 percent.

“Our common destiny calls for unity and rallying together,” said Taubira in her speech, promising to call all her rivals to discuss the terms of unity. “I will tell them I know their reticence, but also their intelligence,” she added, punctuating her speech as ever with rhymes.  

Stuck in the single-digits

Taubira, idolized by part of the French left for her morals and her poetic eloquence, served as Justice Minister under President François Hollande. She most famously carried the project to legalize same-sex marriage, before later resigning out of disagreements with the president and prime minister.

Organizers announced that close to 393,000 people voted, out of 467,000 who had signed up to vote, making it the primary with the highest number of participants in the 2022 presidential cycle. The environmentalists’ primary counted 122,000, while the closed primary of conservative party Les Républicains had 140,000.

In 2017, open primaries for the Socialist Party and Les Républicains, the two dominant political forces at the time, had gathered respectively 2 million and 4.4 million participants. Emmanuel Macron’s surprise ascension to power and final victory left both parties in shambles.

Voters in the People’s Primary were asked to score candidates using a novel system, grading each candidate on a five-point scale, from “lacking” to “very good.” This system, referred to as “majority judgment,” was inspired by a method used in wine tasting. As a result, Taubira obtained a final grade of “good +,” whereas Jadot was rated “fairly good +” and Mélenchon “fairly good -“. Hidalgo was rated “passable +,” just short of “lacking.”

The next steps remain unclear, with none of the major losing candidates likely to pull out of the presidential race.

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