France’s Socialist party presidential candidate, Anne Hidalgo, has vowed to continue her campaign despite indications she has no chance of getting through to the second round of the contest in April.
While political analysts and opinion pollsters have written her off, Hidalgo, who is mayor of Paris, said she remained the left’s best hope of leading France. She said it was too late to heal bitter divisions in the left, accusing rivals, including the Greens, of missing an historic chance to join forces.
Another five years of Emmanuel Macron would leave France in a dangerously “deplorable” state, she said. “It will be ungovernable. It will be unmanageable. He has not understood the French. He has not understood the country. He sees the French as infants: there’s him and a country of children who are waiting for the divine word.”
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian and two European newspapers, Hidalgo also questioned the validity of the much-publicised “people’s primary”, an unofficial popular vote to designate a preferred left-wing presidential candidate that opens on 27 January and runs until Sunday.
Almost 450,000 people have signed up to take part but the main left-wing candidates, Hidalgo, the Green party’s Yannick Jadot, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the hard-left La France Insoumise, refused to take part.
Only the former Socialist justice minister Christiane Taubira, who threw her hat into the presidential election ring 11 days ago, has said she will respect the result.
“Whatever the result of the vote, Mélenchon will say, I continue; Jadot will say, I continue; I will say, I continue. The primaire populaire will follow its course but it will have no consequence on my candidacy,” Hidalgo said.
Opinion polls have Hidalgo trailing badly with about 3% of intentions to vote, a disastrous score that would leave the Socialist party (PS) in an existential crisis. Any candidates scoring less than 5% of the polled vote in the first round will not have their campaign expenses reimbursed by the taxpayer, making it even more difficult for the party to fund candidates in the general election that follows.
In an editorial, Le Monde described the PS as a “dead star”. “The presidential candidate [Hidalgo] is paying the price for the slow decay of a Socialist party that is now a shadow of its former self with barely 22,000 members,” it wrote. “Anne Hidalgo is not entirely to blame for her underperformance in the presidential election polls, which put her under the 5% required for the campaign expenses to be reimbursed.”
Polls currently show Macron likely to be re-elected after facing Marine Le Pen of the far-right Rassemblement Nationale (National rally) or the mainstream right Les Républicains’ candidate Valérie Pécresse in the second round in April. The hard-right candidate Éric Zemmour is in fourth place followed by Mélenchon, Jadot and Hidalgo.
Hidalgo hit back at the polling indications. “I am not at 3%,” she said, although she could not give a figure for her support. “I am confident the dynamic can be changed because the actual campaign hasn’t yet started. Emmanuel Macron has not yet declared he is standing and we don’t yet have all the candidates at the starting line. When it kicks off a lot of things will happen very quickly,” she said.
“Let’s wait for the result of the election in April. Don’t tell me what the result will be today because the opinion polls say this or that.
“I’ve been invited on to television programmes and wondered what the hell I was doing there. All they wanted to talk about was the polls, the polls, the polls, while at the same time there were articles explaining how polls were done and how opinion was being largely fabricated by those polls.
“People told me the problem with the polls was that I wasn’t talking about what really interests the French like immigration and integration, but the French tell me their real concerns are about their spending power, their children’s future, their worries about health … while all they hear in the media is about Zemmour.”
Émeric Bréhier, director of the Observatoire de la vie politique of the left-leaning Jean-Jaurès foundation and a lecturer at the Bordeaux Institute of Political Studies, said he believed the 2022 election was lost for the Socialist party.
“It’s too late for the party to make a mark on this election. Each candidate on the left is swimming in their own lane and none of them wants to budge an inch. The Socialist party is in trouble and has been for several years. I can’t see at this stage how we can get out of that,” he said.
Hidalgo agreed the French left had lost its “compass” and needed to reunite voters behind her 70-point social democrat programme. She said the PS had performed strongly in local elections in 2020 and 2021, and had a reservoir of loyal grassroots support across France. Her biggest regret she said, was Jadot’s refusal to take part in a leftwing primary to select a candidate at the end of 2021.
“A primary would have allowed us to put the debate back on to our subjects – the ecological, social and democratic crisis – and address the French, especially those of the left, about the subjects that interest them and show that no, the left is not dead,” she said.
“We could have shown what we stand for, what are our differences and what brings us together. It was a big personal risk for me but I said I would accept the result of that vote. It was a historic chance for the left to do this, but they refused. Now it’s not possible.”
She added: “Never, never can Mélenchon or Jadot win the second round. If the left has any chance of winning it’s with me … only I am capable of reuniting from the centre left to the centre right.”