Meet the far-left firebrand threatening to derail the French election

French presidential election candidate for the far-left coalition La France insoumise Jean-Luc Melenchon gestures as he speaks on on stage during a campaign rally on April 2, 2017, in Deols, central France.

France's presidential election is quickly turning into a four-way race as far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon surges in the polls, fueling uncertainty with just days remaining until citizens head to the ballot box.

In a new twist to France's fast-approaching two-stage election process, Melenchon has emerged as a significant threat to his political rivals and could pull off an unlikely upset.

"(Melenchon) is somewhat more charismatic than the other candidates, he has a good sense of humor, he's rather jolly (and) so personally he seems to come across better than the other candidates on the campaign," Douglas Webber, professor of political science at INSEAD, told CNBC on Wednesday.

The veteran far-left candidate has displaced center right hopeful Francois Fillon to move into third in the latest opinion polls though remains behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the race to the Elysee Palace.

Groundswell of support

Mélenchon’s surge coming at Macron’s expense: INSEAD

Melenchon's groundswell of support appears to have stemmed from popular performances in televised presidential debates with onlookers describing him as the 'most convincing' candidate, according to an Elabe poll.

Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon has repeatedly urged Melenchon to consider joining forces and though the combined poll numbers appear to place the leftists in the second runoff round, the latter has consistently refused.

"There is one scenario under which Melenchon could perhaps make it through to the second round and that would be if over the next ten days or so, the support for Benoit Hamon, the socialist party candidate (who is) not too different to Melenchon, begins to melt away," Webber said.

Melenchon's campaign is based on redistributing wealth and protecting the environment though the experienced far-left presidential hopeful has been a proponent of some similar pledges to that of his far-right rival, Le Pen. Both candidates have threatened to pull France out of the EU as well as the euro area.

Melenchon has said, if elected, he would also want to renegotiate all European treaties and implement a 90 percent tax rate on individuals who earn 20 times more than the median salary.

'Voter malaise towards the establishment'


"The main theme of this election is voter malaise towards the establishment; Melenchon has been able to capitalize on this sentiment through his stellar performances in the TV debates and a very media savvy campaign strategy," Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at Teneo Intelligence, said in a note.

Analysts at Teneo Intelligence and Nomura both predicted Melenchon would beat Le Pen in the second runoff vote on May 7, however, they expect him to narrowly miss out on the presidency if he was to face off against Macron.

French citizens vote in the first round of the election on April 23 before electing a new premier two weeks later.