4-20-17 5:19 AM EDT | Email Article

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

Holograms have also been used by India's Modi and Turkey's Erdogan

Here's one way to drum up late-campaign support in the French presidential election: Appear and make your pitch to voters at seven different rallies at the very same time.

That's the trick far-left, euroskeptic candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon pulled off this week -- using holograms to reach 35,000 people in one go.

With campaigns stretching all across France, the five main presidential candidates are jockeying to win over an unprecedented volume of undecided voters in Sunday's first-round election. A lot is at stake: If a populist makes a strong showing, it could rattle the foundations of the European Union (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-frances-hotly-contested-election-could-spark-market-turmoil-2017-04-19), commentators say.

The race is still nail-bitingly tight and polls show four of the candidates -- including Mélenchon -- are set to get around 20% of the votes each.

Darrell Delamaide:The next president of France will be a demagogue (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-next-president-of-france-will-be-a-demagogue-2017-04-05)

Mélenchon's "Star Wars"-style performance happened on Tuesday, when he made a real-life appearance in Dijon, and at the same time a virtual version of him spoke to voters in Clermont, Grenoble, Montpellier, Nancy, Nantes and Le Port. Organizers said 35,000 people had showed up across the seven sites, according to local media.

(https://youtu.be/55n37Xlb8Gs?t=11s)

Eric Coquerel, campaign manager for Mélenchon, told Ouest-France newspaper (http://www.ouest-france.fr/pays-de-la-loire/nantes-44000/nantes-au-moins-6-000-personnes-pour-l-hologramme-de-melenchon-4936500?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1492542010) the hologram rally helped the leftist candidate speak to more undecided voters, while saving money on travel expenses.

"But beyond this technical feat, we are making a very innovative campaign," he said.

The "one man, seven rallies" event came just days before the first round of the French election on Sunday, April 23. Until recently, French Communist-backed Mélenchon was polling last among the five main candidates.

However, after his strong showing in two TV debates, the outsider -- representing his own self-created party, La France Insoumise -- is now rapidly gaining on the other candidates. Support for Mélenchon has jumped to almost 20% from around 11% a month ago. Now he's neck-and-neck with conservative François Fillon, and closing in on far-right Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Read:French election fears return to rattle bonds, euro (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/french-election-fears-return-to-rattle-bonds-euro-2017-04-11)

It's not the first time Melenchon has used technology to dazzle the electorate. In February, the former senator kicked off his presidential bid by appearing in front of crowds in Lyon and Paris at the same time.

"Where am I? I am in Lyon," Melenchon said. Then he snapped his fingers and declared: "Now I'm in Paris," as his 3-D hologram was beamed into a venue in the capital.

(https://twitter.com/gdeviolet/status/828236508096233477)

While the left-wing populist is the only one to employ that digital tool in the French campaign, the technique has been used by other politicians. Narendra Modi used holograms to reach villages across India (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/10803961/Magic-Modi-uses-hologram-to-address-dozens-of-rallies-at-once.html) is his 2014 campaign to become the country's next prime minister, while then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a giant hologram to attend a political party meeting the same year.

-Sara Sjolin; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-20-17 0519ET

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