Nfld. & Labrador

'Extreme-left' candidate sees strong result in St-Pierre-Miquelon

Jean-Luc Mélenchon almost doubled his national average in St-Pierre-Miquelon, and was followed by National Front candidate Marine Le Pen.

Parliamentarian says St-Pierre-Miquelon tired of broken political system

Jean-Luc Melenchon, candidate of the French far-left Parti de Gauche and candidate for the French 2017 presidential election, delivers a speech to supporters from a barge during a cruise on the canal de l'Ourcq in Paris on April 17. (Reuters / Alain Jocard)

In a result that some political watchers called sending a message, an "extreme-left" candidate saw one of his strongest election results in St-Pierre-Miquelon during this month's presidential election.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon took more than 35 per cent of the department's votes in Saturday's vote, a result that was much stronger than his countrywide average of 19.5 per cent.

"It really is more a cry for attention, or sending a message of like, 'We're fed up with what's going on now,'" said Stephanie Bowring, a former political staffer and a St-Pierre-Miquelon expat who is living in Newfoundland.

She said left-wing candidates have been getting more support in the region over the past few years, and that falls in line with what's happening in other rural communities and territories of France.

"I think it's the distance and isolation that makes you feel you have to do something a bit more radical to feel heard," she said.

The candidate wanted to rewrite the French constitution, "rein in" the financial system, reduce working hours and reject free-trade agreements, explained Bowring.

"[Mélenchon] is considered by some to be extreme left," she said.

St-Pierre-Miquelon representative Stéphane Claireaux speaks during a debate in France's National Assembly in January. (Courtesy Depute975)

With 478 votes, Marine Le Pen of France's National Front party came in second place in St-Pierre-Miquelon's department, followed by Emmanuel Macron.

St-Pierre-Miquelon's representative in France's parliament, Stéphane Claireaux, wrote in a blog post that Macron was a reformist, and Mélenchon and Le Pen were "anti-system" candidates.

"This result expresses a protest vote against a political system that's run out of steam," Claireaux wrote on his French-language blog.

Stakes for St-Pierre-Miquelon

Bowring said the strong result in Mélenchon's favour was due to multiple factors, including a scandal that shook the candidacy of the more mainline politician François Fillon and a failure of the socialist candidate to unite his base.

But she said it's also, in large part, due to austerity politics, which were associated with front-runner Emmanuel Macron.

Stéphanie Bowring was born in St. John's, raised in St-Pierre-Miquelon, and has since returned to Newfoundland to work. (CBC)

"Let's face it, St. Pierre and Miquelon has many assets, and has potential, but currently the economy is somewhat artificial, with a lot more public-service employment than the equivalent in France," she said.

"Austerity means budget reductions, and obviously means job cuts in the public sector, and so people who have these reliable steady jobs in the public sector are afraid of that." 

Bowring herself ran for a seat in 2012 for France's parliament, a seat designed to represent citizens living abroad in Canada and the United States. She finished with a small proportion of the votes, running for a left-wing party.

Government spending supports a lot of jobs on St-Pierre-Miquelon, according to Stephanie Bowring. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

She added that not unlike Newfoundland and Labrador voters, many in St-Pierre-Miquelon pay close attention to what candidates are promising their region when they head to the polls.

A number of St-Pierre-Miquelon residents and small-business owners declined to speak about the election; one said he would rather Fillon be elected but didn't want his political viewpoint associated with his business.

Another round

Macron and Le Pen have advanced to the second of voting, which will take place next weekend.

Bowring said that a number of her acquaintances on St-Pierre-Miquelon don't feel represented by the candidates, and might not vote at all.

Emmanuel Macron, left, head of the political movement En Marche!, and Marine Le Pen, a former French National Front political party leader, will run in the second round of the 2017 French presidential election. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

However, Claireaux is urging his "progressive" constituents to vote for Macron, and against Le Pen.

Claireaux wrote that to vote for Le Pen, who is one of the two candidates who has move onto the run-off vote, is to vote against the European Development Fund, which makes up a big part of the budget in St. Pierre-Miquelon.

About the Author

Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.