In the Rhône, Gabriel Amard (La France insoumise, LFI) stands out as the leader of the reconstituted left. Friday, May 13, the presentation of all the candidates of the department of the New People’s Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) takes place in a brasserie in Villeurbanne, the constituency where he is running. Microphone in hand, the regional councilor of Isère distributes the floor to the “rebellious” candidates, environmentalists, socialists and communists, gathered under the same banner. The ceremony includes a photo outside to show the support of the mayors of Villeurbanne, Cédric Van Styvendael (Socialist Party, PS), and Lyon, Grégory Doucet (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts). Discreet smile and crossed arms, Gabriel Amard stands between the two mayors, slightly behind, as if in ambush. Taken at the foot of the imposing Villeurbanne town hall, in the skyscraper district, the image says a lot about the growing role of the man who is also the son-in-law of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The dual family and political status gives Gabriel Amard’s campaign all its uniqueness. Its non-negotiable designation causes deep tears in the former stronghold of Charles Hernu. “This is the first time that there is no socialist candidate in the first round of legislative elections, our territory has been despised. Finding yourself in the auxiliary of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Gabriel Amard, there is something that does not pass. All of this was imposed by step-dad,” stings Jean-Paul Bret. The former PS mayor of Villeurbanne (2001-2020) does not have words harsh enough against the socialist negotiators and the agreement with Nupes: “They sold the party to save their skins. “And is no more tender with his successor at the town hall, whom he nevertheless favored, by pointing to “the duplicity” of Mr. Van Styvendael, guilty, in his eyes, of having stifled in the bud a possible socialist dissent.
Laboratory of the recomposed left
In this city of theater, the politicians come to play the Atrides in reverse: here, it is the father who tries to kill the son, and the son-in-law who takes over the filiation. Thus, by deciding to support Katia Buisson, candidate of the Radical Left Party (PRG), Jean-Paul Bret complicates the campaign of Gabriel Amard, in a city with strong left potential. In the first round of the presidential election, on April 10, Jean-Luc Mélenchon improved his 2017 score by eleven points to reach 37.88% of the vote, twelve points ahead of Emmanuel Macron. Elected in the Macronist wave in 2017, MP Bruno Bonnell (La République en Marche, LRM) did not stand again, and Emmanuelle Haziza, ex-Les Républicains rallied to Horizons, made a second legislative attempt under the presidential label. Villeurbanne should be a good laboratory on the respective influences, the local tensions and the Mélenchonist dynamic in the recomposed left.
A student fighting against the Devaquet reform, Gabriel Amard pushed the door of the socialist senator in 1986, and never left him again. In the wake of Jean-Luc Mélenchon for more than thirty-five years, the former scout at the Eclaireuses Eclaireurs de France presents himself as a man of mission. “Until February of this year, I was not a candidate anywhere. I am where duty dictates. I am an activist first and foremost, “says the former mayor of Viry-Châtillon (1995-2006) in Essonne.
The admirer of Danielle Mitterrand was at the launch of the Left Party, before building the cogs of LFI. After a vain attempt, in 2013, in the legislative elections in the Jura, the specialist in public water management finds itself, in 2020, in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, in the North. “There were four of them, we put together a list in three weeks. I did the job, “said Gabriel Amard, who justifies his return to Isère for “family reasons”, where he was elected regional councilor in 2021. To those who mock his “electoral tourism”, the person concerned , 55, replies that he obeyed the logic of the party.
“Getting Grounded in the Territory”
The Nupes candidate keeps his private sphere at a distance, while summoning the Villeurbannais memories of his mother and his blacksmith grandfather. “The only place where it makes sense to me is Villeurbanne,” says Mr. Amard now, determined to “be long-term, rooted in the territory.” Here is the mayor PS warned. In addition to a participatory application accessible on smartphone, multiplying militant initiatives, the local leader of LFI organizes “law workshops” to campaign. He wants to “multiply them in working-class neighborhoods”.
Saturday, May 21, the candidate becomes an evangelist in front of around thirty people, including several local elected officials. He animates groups divided by table, in a room of the labor palace, with a view of the town hall. The session mixes popular education and group dynamics, with the aim of collectively drafting a law on “free canteens”. Books of the figures of LFI are displayed at the entrance as well as the panel in the colors of the Nupes, proposing “Jean-Luc Mélenchon Prime Minister”.
Precisely, the latter held an outdoor meeting on Saturday June 4 in Villeurbanne. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s speech barely finished, Gabriel Amard was the first to go up on the small stage set up in the square of Free France. The candidate receives the hug, exchanges complicit words. In his speech, the founder of LFI did not forget to pay tribute to him. “Gabriel is the pillar of the militant system that I have built for years”, recalled Mr. Mélenchon, confirming the essential role of the candidate of the 6th district of the Rhône within La France insoumise.