Split between Socialists and hard-left damages chance of alliance before EU elections

By David Coffey with RFI

With less than a month to go before European elections, the atmosphere among France's left-wing candidates is becoming increasingly antagonistic following a recent split between the centrist Socialists and the hard-left, further damaging the chances of a union for the upcoming polls.

Last week, the first secretary for France's Socialist Party (PS), Olivier Faure accused the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon of doing "everything to make an alliance impossible" between left-wing parties and their candidates running for election to the European parliament.

This comes amid alleged "fake news" being circulated about star Socialist candidate Raphaël Glucksmann, coming from LFI contender Manon Aubry's campaign

In a tweet, Aubry accused Glucksmann – the 44-year-old journalist, film producer and MEP who's heading the bill for France's centre-left in June's elections – of "lining his pockets" in addition to his mandate as a member of the European parliament, implying that he was paid by lobby groups, even though his additional income came from book sales.

Glucksmann threat to Renaissance

Glucksmann – a serving member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the EU Parliament since 2019 – is known for his advocacy on human rights issues, having launched his election campaign under the banner of his mini-party, Place Publique.

Ahead of the June polls, Glucksmann has also been seen as a significant threat to French President Emmanuel Macron's faction and Renaissancecandidate Valérie Hayer.

Macron's recent shift to the right on issues such as immigration and pension reform –aimed at countering the rise of the far-right candidate Jordan Bardella – has alienated the French president's left-wing supporters.

'Smear campaign'

The 2024 electioneering on the French left is taking place just seven months after the broad left-wing Nupes alliance collapsed in the wake of Hamas' attacks on Israel, amid accusations that Jean-Luc Mélenchon "has not stopped widening the gap" between the Socialist Party and others since the 7 October massacre. 

For his part, Glucksmann has counter-attacked, accusing LFI of orchestrating "a smear campaign" against him on social networks, which he believed resulted in his violent expulsion from a May Day demonstration by activists in the central French city of Saint-Etienne. 

Since the beginning of Glucksmann's campaign running on the PS/Place Publique ticket, the hard-left have reportedly been making negative videos about him, but not any about far-right candidate Bardella.

France Unbowed say they are simply responding to attacks from the PS, who they accuse of wanting to revive "the old left" of former president François Hollande.

And they accept they have allowed for a certain amount of provocation: "When we put Glucksmann on the visual <[a href="" rel="nofollow,noreferrer,noopener" target="_blank">tweeted by Manon Aubry], we know it's going to get people talking and that the media machine will go into overdrive because we're attacking 'his holiness' Raphaël Glucksmann," says MP Matthias Tavel, head of the LFI's European election campaign.

Coalition hopes

The head of the Greens (EELV) list Marie Toussaint has been critical of the "brutality" of the left, calling on Mélenchon to show moderation when it comes to the hustings.

Throughout Glucksmann's campaign meetings, he has never slammed his left-wing rivals.

Following the June elections, some elements of the left – led by the Socialists and Greens – will aim to build a new left-wing coalition for the municipal elections, but above all for the presidential elections in 2027.

However, Raphaël Glucksmann's detractors – who accuse him of being the candidate of "champagne socialism" – may become less vociferous in their criticism if he indeed makes a significant dent in the ruling Renaissance Party's election campaign, and resuscitate the ambitions of France's Socialist Party.