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Tens of thousands of supporters of Mr Mélenchon waved flags on Sunday, 20 March as the head of France Unbowed — or La France Insoumise — party gathered momentum with promises of a reboot of the French Republic and an anything-but-subtle anti-Macron portrayal.

Up to 100,000 people turned out on the Place de la République in Paris to hear Mr Mélenchon, a strong orator, claim: “Here comes the hour of the sixth Republic.”

The 70-year-old wants to put an end to the presidential monarchy and change the rules of the game through a new Constitution written by the people.

He said: “This will be the work of a constituent assembly, composed of people who have never been elected before.

“It will be the writing of another text (than that of the 1958 Constitution), an incentive to reinvest in the life of the country, which is slowly dying of abstention.

“This would allow the French people to re-found themselves.”

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The current presidential regime, instituted by French wartime hero General Charles de Gaulle more than 60 years ago, will be over if the people vote for him, the anti-capitalist candidate, who first ran for the presidency a decade ago, vowed.

Five years after he narrowly missed out on a place in the all-important presidential run-off, he is now in third place in the polls – behind far-right Marine Le Pen.

He has overtaken the struggling Valérie Pécresse, France’s conservative nominee, as well as Éric Zemmour, the far-right anti-Islam pundit.

While no other candidate tops five percent of first-round voting intentions, Mr Mélenchon currently stands at 13 percent, which compares to 17 percent for Ms Le Pen and 30 percent for centrist Mr Macron.

His position in the race has risen from 10 percent in January.

Chances to beat Mr Macron, whose already-established position as the most probable winner has been reinforced by his work before and throughout the war in Ukraine, are slim.

Yet, a second place in the April 24 run-off would certainly give the country’s political landscape a twist.

In his campaign manifesto, Mr Mélenchon pledges to put controls on the movement of capital, to guarantee jobs for the long-term unemployed, to raise the minimum wage to €1,400 after tax per month, and to freeze food and fuel prices.

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He also says he would lower the retirement age from 62 to 60, unlike centrist Mr Macron, who argues it must be raised to 65 to balance the pension bill.

He told the crowd: “Vote Macron and you will have retirement at 65, vote Mélenchon and you will have retirement at 60.”

Before ending his roughly one-hour speech, Mr Mélenchon spoke about his desire to “build a new world”, with a brief mention of climate change.

He concluded his rally with a metaphor about the spring equinox, which he compared with the arrival of the people’s spring.

In a seeming bid to nudge the French to take part in the election — two out of three stayed at home in 2017 —, he exclaimed: “On April 10, give back this country, stunted by greed and racism, to all its children.

“On April 10, make France speak to the world! Another world is possible!”

Whether voters will show up to “speak to the world”, only time can tell.

Last week, a study commissioned by French daily Le Monde found that fewer than 70 percent of voters were certain they would take part in the first round – a number that dropped to 53 percent for the 18-24 age group.

Additional reporting Maria Ortega

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