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Could France’s election deliver a Muslim left-winger as, so to speak, the ‘Queen’ of France?

3 min

Rima Hassan doesn’t deign to say much, but alongside Jean-Luc Mélenchon at a press conference after the vote, she kept smiling.

 

Rima Hassan and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Sunday evening © X

Rima Hassan doesn’t deign to say much, but alongside Jean-Luc Mélenchon at a press conference after the vote, she kept smiling.

It was 9 p.m. on Sunday when left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon held a press conference to celebrate his quasi-victory in the first round of the general election. The New Popular Front he had set up 20 days earlier — a coalition of vestigial leftist parties, the communists, the socialists, the Greens, robustly backed by his own extremist group, La France Insoumise, or France Unbowed — was coming second in the race, with 27.99 percent of the vote nation-wide.

That was quite an achievement. Although a bit behind the 29 percent or 30 percent foretold by the polls, the New Popular Front was nonetheless trailing Marine Le Pen’s and Jordan Bardella’s National Rally, which won, along with some conservative allies, 33.4 percent of the vote. As for President Macron, his centrist coalition Ensemble was lagging at 20 percent.

Clearly, the second round would largely be a showdown between the National Rally and the New Popular Front. As for the centrists, their last chance to survive in the coming National Assembly, and perhaps to salvage a working majority, was to pass as many agreements with the New Popular Front as possible, either explicitly or tacitly. As Monsieur Mélenchon put it, the “goal now was to defeat the National Rally.”

No doubt Monsieur Mélenchon is the most charismatic leader in current French politics, in spite of his extremism or because of it. He is also the most eloquent, as only an old-style, well-read leader can be. Beyond verbal eloquence, he has a deep understanding of global communication — the non-verbal, the visual, the insinuations.

More important than anything Monsieur Mélenchon said in his conference, there was the person standing on his left: a recently elected member of the European Parliament from his left-wing La France Insoumise party, Rima Hassan, 32. She doesn’t deign to utter a single word, though she kept smiling. She was draped in a white and grey shawl reminiscent of the Palestinian keffiyeh.

By placing Ms. Hassan next to him, Monsieur Mélenchon was beaming a clear message to Muslims and non-Muslims alike : “The future belongs to me because it belongs — demographically — to Islam.”

Ms. Hassan is supposed to be born in Syria, as a second-generation Palestinian refugee from the West Bank. Her Palestinian father is said to have worked as a “mechanic” for the Bashar Al-Assad regime. 

Her mother hails, however, from a distinguished Syrian family, the Hananu. The fact is she soon left Syria and her husband for France, where Ms. Hassan was raised and educated.

Now a naturalized French citizen, Ms. Hassan made the best she could out her roots and became the main spokeswoman for Palestinian or pro-Palestinian organizations.

Monsieur Mélenchon, with his flair for symbols and personalities, turned her into LFI’s main figure in the European election. It was a stroke of genius, which won him, according to a recent poll, the support of at least 62 percent of French Muslims.

By placing Ms. Hassan next to him, Monsieur Mélenchon was beaming a clear message to Muslims and non-Muslims alike : “The future belongs to me because it belongs — demographically — to Islam.”

As political commentator Franz-Olivier Giesbert observed today on CNews, the French conservative TV channel: La France Insoumise “won the general election — whatever the outcome on the second round, next Sunday.”

Under the French constitution and electoral law, one needs an absolute majority to be elected in the first round. The National Rally won 39 seats already, the New Popular Front 32 seats, and the Macronists two seats only.

In the second round, any candidate that gets more than 12.5 percent of the registered voters can either stay or withdraw. Hence one could see a multiplicity of “triangular” or “even “quadrangular” races, which in turn can pave the way for all sorts of arrangements and compromises between the parties.

It is still to be seen, however, if the voters will passively follow the parties’ voting instructions. Arithmetically, a coalition of Macronists and left-wingers can beat the National Rally, or at least deprive it of an absolute majority in Parliament. 

Yet are Macronists and at least part of the left really going to crown Rima Hassan as the first Muslim queen of France? Many may abstain. Some may even consider voting for Madame Le Pen’s National Rally.

By Michel Gurfinkiel, The New York Sun 

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