(Repeats without changes item issued on April 14)
* Election graphic tmsnrt.rs/2jLwO20
By Brian Love
PARIS, April 14 He admires the late Cuban
revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan former
president Hugo Chavez, and he has little time for German
Chancellor Angela Merkel: Jean-Luc Melenchon, French would-be
president, is a true tax-and-spend leftist.
If elected, the 65-year-old leader of the small Left Party
says France would spend 100 billion euros of borrowed money on
vast housebuilding and renewable energy projects to stimulate
economic growth and job-creation.
He would impose a 90-percent supertax on earners of 400,000
euros a year upwards, reject EU rules on deficit reduction and
call a "Frexit" referendum to quit the European Union if Merkel
and other leaders refuse to radically change course, notably by
turning their backs on years of financial austerity.
If French voters pick any of the other three top contenders
in a presidential vote that comes to a head on May 7, Melenchon
warned a rally on April 12: "You'll be coughing blood".
The rivals are centrist Emmanuel Macron, favourite in polls,
Francois Fillon, a right-winger who wants to slash public
spending and the public employment workforce, and Marine Le Pen,
whose biggest difference with Melenchon is her stand against
Like Le Pen, he is a member of the European Parliament, but
no fan of the direction the European Union has taken. Poverty
and poor economic growth, he says, are a result of laissez-faire
economics and an allergy to deficit-spending that he blames on
By spending heavily and hiking public sector wages, he says,
the French economy will grow faster, knocking the jobless rate
from 10 percent to six percent by end of term in 2022, buoying
tax income for the state and social services.
The man who left the Socialist Party after three decades in
2009 to pursue a tougher brand of socialism wants to nationalise
key sectors like airports and motorways, create a public banking
giant and legalise cannabis.
He wants to devalue the euro to boost trade competitiveness.
He promises to veto free-trade pacts, end European Central Bank
independence from politicians, quit the International Monetary
Fund and pull France out of the NATO military alliance.
The quest for environment-friendly agriculture, industry and
alternatives to nuclear and carbon-based power is an opportunity
France and Europe must seize, he says; hence the pledge to spend
much of his 100 billion euros stimulus on new power projects.
Instead of the free trade agreements he denounces, Melenchon
advocates alternative forms of cooperation. His manifesto lauds
a Latin American accord under which Chavez sent oil to Cuba and
Castro dispatched eye-doctors to treat thousands of Venezuelans
blinded by cataracts.
A distrust of traditional media has led him to rely heavily
on social media to reach out to voters.
He boasts a bigger Youtube following than U.S. President
Donald Trump has during the race to the White House.
He uses hologram technology worthy of Star Trek movies to
address rallies, usually sporting a hybrid of traditional
proletarian jackets, while a virtual-reality Melenchon does the
same job at rallies elsewhere.
Born in the Moroccan port city of Tangiers, Melenchon
attributes his fiesty character to his Mediterranean roots.
He is naturally more muted about his rise to fourth place in
polls, days from the April 23 opening vote. He surged in the
same way in 2012 but was knocked out with a less impressive
score on voting day.
(Reporting By Brian Love; Editing by Richard Balmforth)