Luke Brown is British journalist, based in France for more than a decade. Observing France and its peculiarities is more than a pastime, it’s a full-time job. Thanks to the high stakes this year, the 2012 presidential race is set to be unforgettable.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: old-school call to arms.

The candidate for the Front de Gauche won't be the next president. But while he's happy to weigh on the Socialist party's agenda, his real concern is convincing working-class voters not to be wooed by the far Right.

François Hollande: he who dares, wins?

François Hollande is leading in the polls, but his campaign has been struggling to take off ever since he was chosen as the Socialist Party's candidate. Sunday's first major rally was the opportunity to right that.

François Bayrou: third time lucky?

As his poll figures take off, and his harsh warnings of excessive public spending are vindicated by the triple A downgrade, just how close is the man who got it right to winning the presidential election?