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Rima Hassan to Deliver Muslim Votes for Jean-Luc Mélenchon

New York Sun Editor Michel Gurfinkiel discusses the upcoming elections in France and the strategic alliance between Jean-Luc Melenchon and Rima Hassan to entice Muslim voters.

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New York Sun Editor Michel Gurfinkiel discusses the upcoming elections in France and the strategic alliance between Jean-Luc Melenchon and Rima Hassan to entice Muslim voters.

By Michel Gurfinkiel

Rima Hassan doesn’t deign to say much, but alongside Jean-Luc Mélenchon at a recent press conference after the vote, she kept smiling when left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon celebrated his quasi-victory in the first round of the general election.

The New Popular Front he had set up the previous month— a coalition of vestigial leftist parties, the communists, the socialists, the Greens, robustly backed by his own 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. While 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 Mélenchon put it, the “goal now was to defeat the National Rally”.

No doubt Mélenchon is the most charismatic leader in current French politics. 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 innuendoes.

More important than anything 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 didn’t say a word, though she kept smiling. She was draped in a white and grey shawl reminiscent of the Palestinian keffiyeh.

Hassan was 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. She soon left Syria and her husband for France, where Hassan was raised and educated.

Now a naturalized French citizen, Hassan became the main spokeswoman for Palestinian or pro-Palestinian organizations. 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 Hassan next to him, 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?

Note from the Editor: This featured has been edited from its original publication here.

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