Fear forces French left into uneasy coalition

2024-06-24 08:43:44China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Political parties across the spectrum of the left in France are putting ideological differences aside to form an uneasy coalition in opposition to the far right National Rally party, or NR, in the upcoming election for the country's 577-seat national assembly.

There will be two rounds of voting, one at the end of June and the second in early July.

French President Emmanuel Macron's surprise decision to call an election came after the European Parliament elections at the start of June, where NR won 31.4 percent of the vote in France, in contrast to 14.6 percent for Macron's Renaissance party.

Some political observers have said he is calling the bluff of the electorate, asking if they really want the country to be dominated by the far right, or if they have just voted for it in the past as a show of dissatisfaction with the government, but it is widely seen as a high-stakes gamble, hence the formation of a partnership.

The new bloc, known as the "New Popular Front", features a coming-together of the Socialist, Green, Communist and other parties of the left who have set aside their usual disputes for the common goal of preventing a far-right triumph.

The first opinion poll after the election announcement, conducted by Toluna Harris Interactive for TV channels M6 and RTL and reported on June 11, suggested RN would increase its number of assembly seats from 88 to around 250, which would transform the make-up of the chamber, but still fall short of the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority.

Raphael Glucksmann, who led the Socialist Party's European election campaign, told the Guardian newspaper that the party finding itself in alliance with the populist LFI party, after bitter personal exchanges during the recent elections, was "complicated … I'm not going to tell you it's a marriage of love", but that sacrifices needed to be made if the wider grouping was going to emerge victorious from "the mother of all battles".

The coalition has agreed to divide up constituencies, so rival left-wing parties will not stand against one another and split the vote, but even that process has been fractious and resulted in some incumbent assembly members who were deselected announcing that they would run as independents.

Pierre-Alexandre Balland, chief data scientist at the Centre for European Policy Studies think tank in Brussels, told the Euronews website Macron's decision was "a calculated risk with potentially higher rewards than inaction", and that statistics showed that far-right support expressed at previous European elections was not replicated in domestic polls.

"By returning to the voters, Macron aims to show that the European election results don't mirror the wider political sentiment in France," Balland said.

"This move could also mobilize those worried about the far right's rise, serving as a call to action."

But Emeric Brehier, director of the Observatory of Political Life at the left-leaning Jean-Jaures Foundation think tank in Paris, said parties on the left were on the back foot, and had no choice but to unite.

"The RN hasn't put a foot wrong in this campaign … it has gained credibility and made people think it's another normal party. It is saying things people want to hear," he said. "To fight it, the left has had to cooperate and compromise to form an alternative political force."


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