Sunday, May 26, 2024

‘Macron looks right through you!’: Socialist Hidalgo calls on progressives to return to the fold

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With a week to go before the first round of France’s presidential election, Anne Hidalgo is languishing at under 2 percent in the polls. If those voter surveys bear out at the ballot box on April 10, the performance would mark a historic low for the embattled Socialist Party. And so a distinct sense of foreboding reigned as supporters gathered Sunday for Hidalgo’s rally in Paris, where she remains mayor, with the party already poised for a post-election ideological reckoning.

The 19th-century Cirque d’Hiver, a circus venue in Paris’s 11th arrondissement (district), is something of a good luck charm for Anne Hidalgo. It was here in 2014 that she wrapped up her first successful campaign for Paris City Hall. And so, as if to exorcise the hard luck of her beleaguered presidential bid and harken back to the good times, the Socialists chose to return to the covered colosseum on Sunday for her last presidential campaign rally with one more week to go.

As a sign of how far the party has tumbled, just five years after Socialist President François Hollande ceded the Élysée Palace torch to centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, the arena’s 2,000 seats were slow to fill on Sunday. A stark contrast with Macron’s rally across town the night before, with its 30,000 supporters psyched to re-elect the incumbent. “We don’t have the same means,” a Hidalgo campaign official explained.

So forget the merchandise stand, the watchword here is sobriety. After all, the final score on Election Day counts for a party’s bottom line, too. The difference between scoring above or below 5 percent of the vote in France makes all the difference, with state financing subsidies slashed for candidates who fall below that golden threshold.

Despite the ominous polls, some of the Socialist supporters who turned up to cheer on Hidalgo on Sunday still believe their candidate could be this election’s dark horse. “We can do it. We absolutely have to convince the undecided and the abstainers,” said Léo, a 22-year-old party member who admits this has been “a difficult campaign”.

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