France’s leftwing parties have agreed to team up in June’s parliamentary elections, setting aside major differences on Europe, foreign policy and government spending in an attempt to counter newly re-elected president Emmanuel Macron.
After more than a week of difficult talks, the far-left La France Insoumise party (LFI, or France Unbowed) has formed a coalition with the green Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV) and Communist parties, which will lead to them fielding one list of candidates for the National Assembly’s 577 constituencies.
The once-dominant Socialist party (PS), which is fighting for survival after bruising election losses, has also agreed in principle to join, but its governing bodies still need to approve the alliance that has been contested by heavyweights such as former president François Hollande who portray it as a betrayal of its principles.
“We want to elect MPs in a majority of constituencies to prevent Emmanuel Macron from moving ahead with his unjust and brutal policies and to beat the far-right,” the PS and LFI said in a statement on Wednesday.
Macron, who was re-elected last month, will need a parliamentary majority to enact his second-term agenda, which includes raising the retirement age, lowering taxes on companies and promoting a stronger EU. A recent Harris Interactive poll shows his La République en Marche (LREM) party on track for that, but opposition parties are negotiating accords in the hope of preventing it.
The results of the presidential elections in which Eurosceptic, anti-capitalist Jean-Luc Mélenchon came third with 22 per cent of the first-round vote — just behind far-right candidate Marine Le Pen who made the run-off — put his LFI party in the driver’s seat in negotiations over a leftwing coalition.
As a condition of presenting a single list, LFI insists that other parties back its policies, which include lowering the retirement age to 60 from 62, raising the minimum wage and revising the French constitution, many of which are more radical than the traditional centre-left approach.
France’s role within the EU was a big sticking point because LFI advocated a policy of “disobedience” to EU rules when they prevent the implementation of their social and economic goals. The Greens and Socialists have long supported the European project, but they agreed to compromise language that ruled out a French exit from the EU or the common currency, while supporting the idea that France could depart from EU rules if needed.
The Socialists stopped short of using the word “disobey”, preferring instead to speak of “temporary exemptions” to EU rules.
The electoral alliance marked a victory for Mélenchon’s far-left movement, which has imposed its more radical approach and beaten the Socialists repeatedly in presidential elections.
Analysts said the alliance was more tactical than ideological. Contentious issues were avoided, such as the war in Ukraine (LFI opposes sending weapons) or France’s role in Nato (Mélenchon wants it to leave the joint command).
“If the left does not unite, they will be trounced,” said Luc Rouban, a political scientist at Sciences Po university. “The Greens do not have much to lose from this accord, but for the Socialists, it would be a complete surrender.”
France’s two-round system for electing MPs favours incumbents since candidates need to win more than 12.5 per cent of all registered voters to make the run-off, and abstention is often high. In 2017, opposition parties, the far-right Rassemblement National and LFI, ended up with only eight and 17 seats respectively, despite strong presidential election results.
The LFI candidates will run in most constituencies under a unified left banner, while the Greens get 100, the Socialists 70 and the Communists 50.
Additional reporting by Domitille Alain