The Info List - Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Jean-Luc Antoine Pierre Mélenchon (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɑ̃.lyk me.lɑ̃.ʃɔ̃]; born 19 August 1951) is a French far-left politician serving as a member of the National Assembly of France since 2017.[2][3][4]

After joining the Socialist Party in 1976, he was successively elected municipal councilor of Massy (1983), general councilor of the Essonne departement (1985), and Senator of the same department (1986, reelected in 1995 and 2004). He also served as Minister-Delegate of Vocational Education between 2000 and 2002, under the Minister of National Education, Jack Lang, in the cohabitation government of Lionel Jospin. He was part of the left-wing of the Socialist Party until the Reims Congress of 2008, at the outcome of which he left that party to found the Left Party with deputy Marc Dolez.[5][6] He was the president of the party, and then the co-president of it, along with Martine Billard, until August 2014.[7]

As leader of the Left Party, he joined the electoral coalition of the Left Front before the 2009 European elections, and was elected member of the European Parliament in the South-West constituency (re-elected in 2014). During the protest movement against the pension reform of 2010, his public stature grew, thanks to his many public and television appearances. He was also the candidate of that coalition in the 2012 presidential election, at the outcome of which he came in fourth, receiving 11.1% of the votes. He founded the movement La France Insoumise (FI) in February 2016. He was a candidate in the 2017 presidential election "outside the frame of political parties", at the outcome of which he again came in fourth, receiving 19.58% of the votes. He became in June 2017 a MP for La France Insoumise by winning the following 2017 French legislative election (59.85% in the second round) in the 4th constituency of Bouches-du-Rhône department (Marseille).[8]


Early life (1951–1976)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon was born in Tangier (Tangier International Zone), Morocco.[9] His father, Georges, was a postmaster of Spanish descent, and his mother, Jeanine Bayona, was a primary school teacher of Spanish and Sicilian descent.[10] He grew up in Morocco, until his family moved to France in 1962.[9]

Mélenchon was then educated at the public school Lycée Pierre-Corneille in the city of Rouen, Normandy.[11] With a degree in philosophy from the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, and having gained the CAPES (a professional teaching qualification), he became a teacher before entering politics.[9][11]

Socialist mitterrandist leader (1976–1986)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon left Besançon to enter professional life in Lons-le-Saunier (Jura), and joined the Socialist Party (PS) in September 1976.[12] He soon assumed local and departmental responsibilities (deputy section secretary of Montaigu), and developed a federal newspaper that fought for a union between PS and the French Communist Party (PCF). It was at this time that the latter broke the agreements of the union of the left on a joint program of government. He then came to the attention of Claude Germon, mayor of Massy (Essone) and member of the executive office of the PS responsible for the business section. Without stable work after his application was rejected at the Croix du Jura newspaper,[13] he was hired by Claude Germon to become his private secretary.[14]

He became one of the leading Mitterrandist leaders of the Essonne federation, which led him to the position of first secretary of this federation at the Valence Congress in 1981 - he remained in this position until 1986. He positioned himself both against the "Second left" of Michel Rocard and the "Centre of socialist studies, research, and education"(CERES) of Jean-Pierre Chevènement.

He was elected senator during the senatorials of 1986.[15]

Socialist Party (1986–2008)

Departure from the Socialists and foundation of the Left Party (2008–2012)

At the Reims Congress, in September 2008, the political current "Trait d'union", created after the victory of the "No" in the French European Constitution referendum of 2005, Mélenchon made a new contribution. On the eve of the filing of the motions, an agreement was reached between the seven contributions of the left wing of the PS, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon was one of the signatories of the motion C entitled "A world of advance", led by Benoît Hamon.[16] He described this gathering as a "historic event":[17] For the first time, this motion brought together all the sensibilities of the left wing of the PS, with emblematic personalities like Gérard Filoche, Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, and Paul Quilès.

On 6 November 2008, the Socialist militants voted to decide between 6 motions. The motion supported by Ségolène Royal led with about 29% of the votes cast, while the one led by Benoît Hamon came in fourth with 18.5%. For Jean-Luc Mélenchon, it is a victory of the outgoing majority, which carries 80% of the votes (with the three firsts motions) and, among them, the motion advocating the alliance in the center.[18] Believing themselves too far from this trend to the point that it would not be useful to take part in the congress, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marc Dolez announced on 7 November their decision, "by fidelity to their commitments", and for their independence of action, to leave the Socialist Party, and to create a new movement "without concession facing the right".[19]

They announced "the construction of a new left-wing party", simply called the "Left Party" (on the German model of Die Linke), and called for "the constitution of a left-wing front for the European elections".[20] On 18 November, in a meeting with the French Communist Party, the two parties announced their alliance in the form of a "partnership", within the framework of a "left front for another democratic and social Europe, against the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon and the current European Treaties". The launch meeting of the Left Party is held on 29 November in Saint-Ouen, in the presence of Die Linke's co-chairman, Oskar Lafontaine.[21]

First presidential candidacy (2012)

Mélenchon was the candidate representing the Left Front (Communist Party of France, Left Party, Unitarian Left) in the 2012 French presidential election.[22][23] He took fourth place and achieved 11.10% of the vote, trailing behind François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Marine Le Pen (and their respective parties, the Socialist Party, Union for a Popular Movement, and National Front). In comparison, the winner, François Hollande, received 28.63% of the vote.[24][not in citation given]

Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 2013 in Toulouse.

Presidency of François Hollande (2012–2017)

Mélenchon represented the Left Front in the Pas-de-Calais' 11th constituency, to confront his rival Marine Le Pen, where she had over 31% in the presidential election.[25] He received third place with 21.46% of the vote, narrowly edged out for second by Socialist Party member Phillip Kemel. Mélenchon decided not to stand in the second round of the election after this result.[26]

During the presidency of François Hollande, Mélenchon became one of the most critical voices in the left against his centrist free-market policy. He denounced a betrayal to the culture and ideas of the French Left.

Second presidential candidacy (2017)

On February 10, 2016, Melenchon launched the left-wing political platform La France Insoumise ("Unbowed France") during an interview on the french news station TF1.[27] La France Insoumise was subsequently endorsed by several parties, such as the Left Party and French Communist Party, in addition to members of the Europe Écologie Les Verts such as Sergio Coronado, a gay assembly member for the 2nd Overseas Constituency,[28] and the mayor of Grenoble, Éric Piolle.[29]

On 12 January 2017, Mélenchon secured the 500 elected sponsors required to be validated by the Constitutional Council. After Benoît Hamon won the nomination for the Parti Socialiste on a left-wing platform, beating former Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, 58-41,[30] Hamon announced on TF1 on 27 February that he and Melenchon had been in talks to form an alliance, but their stances on the European Union separated them, as Melenchon's platform was to renegotiate EU treaties or hold a referendum. France 24 reported following this that, "Adding their scores would place a candidate in first or second place"[31]

Jean-Luc Mélenchon held at a consistent 12% for most of the campaign, until a late upwards surge which put him just behind third place Francois Fillon at 18%. This late surge is mainly due to Mélenchon's performance within the second presidential debate hosted by BFM TV and CNews, where, according to an Elabe poll, he was found the most convincing candidate by 25%[32] However, he did not qualify for the second round of voting, winning 19% of the vote in the first round, placing fourth.

After the first round, Mélenchon refused to endorse Macron, and refused to tell his voters to vote against Le Pen, as he had done in 2002.[33][34] Following constant criticism for this choice, Mélenchon invited members of La France Insoumise to vote on who he will endorse with the choices being "Vote for Emmanuel Macron", "Blank Vote", or "Abstain", with the result being announced on 2 May.[35]

His campaign positions included the intent to establish a Sixth Republic and preserve the environment. According to the NGOs for the development aid Action Against Hunger, Action santé mondiale, CARE France, and ONE Campaign, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the candidate in the presidential election who is the most engaged regarding international solidarity. Together with other French intellectuals, he vigorously denounces free trade between France and the United States as an example of global exploitation.[36]

Deputy of the National Assembly (since 2017)

Mélenchon with Éric Coquerel, 2017

Mélenchon became in June 2017 a member of the National Assembly for La France Insoumise by winning the following 2017 French legislative election (59.85% in the second round) in the 4th constituency of Bouches-du-Rhône department (Marseille), against En Marche! candidate Corrine Versini in the second round. He notably also defeated Patrick Mennucci in the first round, a significant member of the Socialist Party in the city and former MP in the same constituency.

His entrance to the Assembly draws the national media attention.[37] During the examination of the 2017 Labor Law bill, he was remarked in the Assembly for his multiple interventions, defending the statu quo of Labor Code along with La France Insoumise, arguing that flexibilization would be harmful to workers. [38] He had once more the media attention when he came in the Parliament with a five euros food shopping bag to denounce the cut of student grants planned by the government. [39]

Political positions

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a socialist republican and historical materialist, inspired primarily by Jean Jaurès (the founder of French republican socialism). He is a proponent of increased labour rights and the expansion of French welfare programmes.[40] Mélenchon has also called for the mass redistribution of wealth to rectify existing socioeconomic inequalities.[40] Domestic policies proposed by Mélenchon include a 100 per cent income tax on all French citizens earning more than 360,000 Euros a year, full state reimbursement for health care costs, a reduction in presidential powers in favour of the legislature, and the easing of immigration laws.[41] Mélenchon supports women's right to abortion and same-sex marriage. He also supports the legalisation of cannabis.[42]

Jean-Luc Mélenchon (right) with Olivier Besancenot (left) and José Bové (centre) at a meeting to rally support for the "No" vote in the European Constitution referendum of 2005.

Mélenchon is an outspoken critic of the European Union (EU), which he claims has been corrupted through neoliberalism.[43] During his 2012 campaign, Mélenchon positioned himself against the trend towards economic globalisation, which he denounced as disproportionately profiting the financial industry and "high income earners" at the expense of the poor.[43] He insisted international organisations such as the EU threatened to "strangle the voice of the people".[44] He supports a renegotiation of European treaties.[45]

Mélenchon opposes the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which he perceives as an affront to France's national sovereignty.[44] He has repeatedly called for France to withdraw from NATO.[44]

Mélenchon has been labelled a "populist" by numerous different people, with the PS senator Luc Carvounas saying he goes to "the summits of demagoguery and populism", and the magazine Slate, stating that Mélenchon's rhetoric is "shocking" and implying his entire political life is based around pleasing the people.[46] He has been compared to Marine Le Pen in terms of debating style;[47][48] Political scientist Dominique Reynié even went as far as to say he "flirts with xenophobia when it helps him".[49]

Mélenchon has himself his vision of populism, which he sees as positive if it comes with a left ideology. He is inspired by the philosopher Chantal Mouffe, who sought to theorise and rehabilitate the term "left populism". This theory argues that neoliberalism and austerity only made the far-right stronger and that the word "people" has to be reintroduced into the political sphere in a civic sense rather than an ethnic way (creating a "right populism" to fight). [50]

The Sixth Republic and the French Constitution

Jean-Luc Mélenchon advocates for the holding of a constitutional convention to create a Sixth Republic. In 2017, in La France Insoumise's manifesto titled L'Avenir En Commun, it states in the first chapter: "The new constitution that France needs must be radically different".[51] On 14 September 2014, Mélenchon wrote in Le Monde, "France must protect itself from the powers of finance. They devour the economy. For this, the definition of the constitutional rights of private ownership of capital should change", and furthermore writes on this topic by stating, "Again, it is inclusion in the Constitution that will fix this and make it a common rule."[52]

Mélenchon is also endorsed by the "Movement for the 6th Republic", and has spoken positively of them before. A spokesman for La France Insoumise affirmed that Mélenchon was very welcoming of a Sixth Republic run by the people that welcomes democracy, ecology, and challenges social issues.[52] The new Sixth Republic must also not include no existing parliamentarians, and that they cannot be re-elected.[53]

Agriculture and animal treatment

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is very much in favour of better treatment of animals. He stated during an interview with the magazine Gala that he changed his diet to "reduce consumption of meat and relieve animal suffering".[54] The association L214, which is a non-profit for animal protection, stated that he was the only candidate "for animals" during its evaluation of the candidates' programmes, giving him a score of 15.7/20, placing him at the head of 11 candidates.[55]

European Parliament

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is constantly criticised[by whom?] for his absence in the European Parliament. His attendance before the 2012 presidential election was at 63%, [56] and after this, his average is often compiled with pre-2012, so it is compiled at 71.40%[57] Mélenchon justified his relatively low attendance with how active he is within France itself, and has posted a list of other reasons on his blog.[58][59] He has increased his attendance since then, with the website votewatch.eu reporting it at 85.1%[60]

Foreign Policy


Mélenchon is considered to be very pro-Russia by some journalists.[61][62] The journalist Nicolas Hénin even went as far as to say that Mélenchon is "on the left of the political spectrum, but is the lawyer of the Kremlin leader", with Hénin quoting how Mélenchon is the "political victim number one" in the story about the murder of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.[63] Cécile Vaissié, author of The Kremlin Networks, regards Jean-Luc Mélenchon as "one of those that approve of Putin", [64] and Yannick Jadot of EELV said that the pro-Russia stance is "contary to any environment thinking".[65]

Mélenchon has denied any support for Vladimir Putin, saying that it is unlike an "eco-socialist" to support Vladimir Putin, [66] and has stressed that Putin had "imprisoned [his] friends in Russia", [67] and when attacked by Benoit Hamon on the topic of Putin, he stated: "I am not bound in any way to Mr. Putin. I am absolutely fighting his policy, and if I was Russian, I would not vote for his party, but for the Russian Left Front whose leader is in prison."[68]


Mélenchon is in favour of a United Nations-led intervention into Syria featuring all nations on the security council, including Russia. He opposes intervention without an international cooperation.[69] After the chemical attack in Ghouta, he has said that he feels like a strike on Syria "would be a mistake", and calls for a "political solution".[70]

He has compared an intervention in Syria to Iraq,[71] and has approved of Russia's intervention in Syria, saying that he believes Vladimir Putin will "fix" Syria and "eliminate" ISIS,[61] though he has said numerous times that he believes that Putin can't be left to solve the problem in Syria, saying: "The UN will solve the problem [...] it's time for an international coalition".[72]

National Defense

Mélenchon wants France to withdraw from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization),[73][74] and advocates for what he calls a "separate France" which is pacifist.[51] He opposes the concept of a unified European army.[75]

In the 2017 presidential election, he made his main foreign policy point to be the exit from NATO, stating that the organisation has led to "war" and French "submission to the United States".

Mélenchon also says that Nuclear Deterrence is an "essential element of our protection", but it is "outdated".


Mélenchon has no real position on regionalism, but has stated that he supports the teaching of regional languages, especially Breton.[76] He supports state funding for the teaching of the Breton language.[77] He has gone against autonomy for Brittany, even blaming socialists from the region for promoting "autonomy".[78]


Anti-German sentiment

After the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in December 2014, described reform efforts so far in France and Italy as "insufficient", Mélenchon told Merkel through Twitter: "Shut your mouth, Mrs. Merkel! France is free."[79] Jean-Luc Mélenchon, however, denies being prejudiced against the Germans, and claims to have founded his party hand in hand with Oskar Lafontaine.[80] After the referendum on the Greek sovereign debt crisis in early July 2015, he said that the "right-wing German government" was primarily responsible for the aggravation of the crisis.[81]

Commenting for The Guardian in April 2017, Natalie Nougayrède, a former executive editor and managing editor of Le Monde,[82] noted:

"In his 2015 book Bismarck’s Herring (The German Poison), Mélenchon wrote that, 'Germany is again a danger', its 'imperialism' is 'returning', and the EU is its 'new empire'. He's described Germans as 'grumbling Teutons' who seek to 'deport' their old people to Eastern Europe or Thailand. And he's written that German 'expansionism' was at work in the country's 1990 reunification – an 'annexation' of East Germany, in his words. That, in itself, is no small rewriting of history, and no small denial of a people's freely expressed will after the fall of communism. His criticism of Angela Merkel's eurozone policies goes far beyond the economic. It peddles nationalistic, if not bigoted, hatreds. He may have tried to soften that impression by saying he wants 'the peoples of Europe' to revolt against their governments – and not start to fight among themselves. But he has hardly backtracked on any of his earlier statements. Much of this echoes and amplifies Le Pen's rhetoric, rather than helping to combat it."[83]

Interactions with the media

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is often very rough with the media, and has before asked his party members to monitor and film journalists, especially Le Monde and Libération[84] Lilian Alamgna of the Libération writes, "If the media are the opponents, he can also use them to get his message across."[85]

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has also insulted numerous journalists: He has labelled Renaud Revel of L'Express a "dirty little spy", and labelled the newspaper "fascist".[86] He accused Le Monde journalists of being CIA spies.[87] When questioned on if he could win "without Benoit Hamon" by a France 5 reporter, he told a member of his team to throw him out, and called him an "asshole".[88]

Political career

Governmental functions[9]

Minister of Vocational Education, 2000–2002.

Electoral mandates

European Parliament

Member of European Parliament since 2009.

Senate of France

Senator of Essonne, 1986–2000 (became minister in 2000), 2004–2010 (resignation, elected in European Parliament in 2009). Elected in 1986, re-elected in 1995, 2004. (At the age of 35, he was the youngest member of the Senate when he was elected to it in 1986.)

General Council

Vice-president of the General Council of Essonne, 1998–2001.

General councillor of Essonne, 1985–1992, 1998–2004. Re-elected in 1998.

Municipal Council

Deputy-mayor of Massy, Essonne, 1983–1995.

Municipal councillor of Massy, Essonne, 1983–2001. Re-elected in 1989, 1995.

Political function

Co-President of the Left Party, 2008–2014.


Mélenchon's published works include:

  • Mélenchon, Jean-Luc; Amar, Cécile (22 March 2017). De la vertu (in French). Editions de l'Observatoire. ISBN 979-1-03-290059-8. 
  • Mélenchon, Jean-Luc (1 December 2016). L'avenir en commun : Le programme de la France insoumise et son candidat (in French). Seuil. ISBN 978-2021317510. 
  • Mélenchon, Jean-Luc (16 November 2016). Le hareng de Bismarck: Le poison allemand (in French) (paperback ed.). J'ai lu. ISBN 978-2290127940. 
  • Mélenchon, Jean-Luc (8 October 2014). L'ère du peuple (in French). Fayard. ISBN 978-2213685755. 


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