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French left calls for unity ahead of snap elections


French left calls for unity ahead of snap elections


The leaders of France’s main left-wing parties, including firebrand three-time presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have called for unity in the run-up to snap legislative elections set for June 30 and July 7. However, discussions about an electoral coalition and a common platform may be difficult, especially with just three weeks of campaigning before the first round.

Unifying after months of campaigning on their differences – that’s the challenge faced by the French left after President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise decision to dissolve the National Assembly following the shocking gains by the far right in Sunday’s European Parliament elections.

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure, Greens leader Marine Tondelier, French Communist Party (PCF) chief Fabien Roussel and La France insoumise (France Unbowed or LFI) lawmaker François Ruffin all called for unity on Sunday after projections showed that the far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally or RN), led by Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, would win 31.5 percent of the vote. This was a 15-point margin over Macron’s centrist group and 16 points better than the third-place Socialists. Left-wing voters later gathered spontaneously at the Place de la République in Paris to protest the RN.

The leaders’ calls for union were accompanied by messages addressed to LFI leader Mélénchon and his party. “We need a coalition that brings together people capable of agreeing in a democratic way. There will be no alignment with anyone,” said Faure. “A coalition is not a leader deciding for everyone else, it’s a permanent dialogue, a democratic and fraternal way of working.”


Mélenchon, a key figure on France’s left who wanted Sunday’s European elections to serve as precursor to the 2027 presidential vote, appealed directly to voters at an impromptu meeting not far from Place de la République. “Everyone is capable of choosing the platform that enables popular unity,” Mélenchon said, while emphasising “the disastrous responsibility of all those who denied us the possibility of entering this battle united, so we could have challenged the National Rally for the lead”.

The prospect of a united left recalls the New Ecological and Social Popular Union (NUPES) which emerged in the run-up to the last legislative elections in France in 2022. The Socialist Party, the PCF and the Greens had all agreed an accord with LFI, which included LFI policy proposals such as a €1,400 monthly minimum wage, a price freeze on basic necessities, a rollback of the retirement age to 60 and a shift in institutional power from the president to parliament. 

The parties also agreed to field a single NUPES candidate in each of France’s 577 legislative districts.

This strategy helped enable 151 NUPES candidates to win Assembly seats in a vote that saw RN candidates win 89.

A new ‘Popular Front’?

While the Socialists’ Faure, the PCF’s Roussel and LFI deputy Ruffin on Monday called for a “Popular Front”, a reference to the left-wing coalition that won elections in 1936, LFI coordinator Manuel Bompard said on Franceinfo that such an alliance must be based on the NUPES platform.

With or without LFI and Mélenchon’s participation, agreement on a common platform is far from assured, as the NUPES platform has fallen apart since it was established in 2022.

On Monday afternoon, LFI deputy Mathilde Panot arrived for a meeting with Bompard, the Socialists’ Faure, and Greens leader Tondelier at the Greens’ headquarters in Paris

Bompard called for the parties to work “towards unity and clarity” ahead of the snap vote on X.

“Now the Union. Urgent, strong, clear”, said Mélenchon, also on X.

LFI deputy Eric Coquerel told Reuters on Monday that an agreement among left-wing parties would only be possible based on a “platform of rupture” including the rollback of the retirement age to 60, reform of the tax system and recognition of a Palestinian state.

Rebels

Other voices in LFI were heard on Sunday night.

“Today, the issue is to have a bloc to face up to the worst thing that can happen to our country,” Ruffin said on Sunday. “I’m calling on the leaders of the left-wing parties to unite now and stop the nonsense. We’ve had enough of insulting each other, we’ve had enough of tearing each other apart.”

Party “frondeurs” (rebels), including Clémentine Autain, Alexis Corbière and Raquel Garrido, launched similar calls. Left-wing parties view these deputies as easier to work with than LFI’s leadership. The question now is whether there will be only a handful of rebels, or if LFI will split further on the question of union with other leftwing parties.

And then there is Glucksmann, whose list finished third in the European elections just behind Macron’s Renew grouping.

“At the start of our campaign, we were told that the left of Robert Badinter or Jacques Delors was dead,” Glucksmann said Sunday, referring to the late justice minister who led the drive to abolish the death penalty in 1981 and the late finance minister who served as president of the European Commission, respectively. “We showed that it was very much alive, that it was even capable of kindling hope and enthusiasm,” he said on the strength of a projected 14 percent finish, ahead of LFI at 10.1 percent, the Greens at 5.5 percent and the PCF at 2.3 percent.



‘Old Socialist Party’

Glucksmann’s speech will no doubt be echoed in the coming days by Hollande and former prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who have always opposed the NUPES. Their support would no doubt embarrass the Socialists’ Faure, who has striven to bid adieu to their part of France’s “old Socialist Party”.

A new union of the left will need to answer questions that were bound to come up before the 2027 presidential election or the 2026 municipal elections but not yet in mid-June 2024.

“We thought we’d have time between now and 2027,” Socialist Party spokeswoman Dieynaba Diop said on Sunday after Macron’s shock announcement.

“Do we want to win together or do we want to lose separately?” asked the LFI’s Ruffin on Sunday evening.

France’s left only has a few days to decide. Candidacies for the legislative elections must be submitted from June 12 to June 16, according to a presidential decree published Monday. The election campaign will begin on June 17. 

This article is an updated adaptation of the original in French.

 

 

 

 



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