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Can France's left wing unify to counter far right in legislative elections?

By Sarah Elzas - RFI
France © Stephane Mahe/Reuters
MON, 10 JUN 2024 LISTEN
© Stephane Mahe/Reuters

French leftist and green parties won over 31 percent of the vote in Sunday's European parliament election, but they can only hope to face down the far right in the upcoming snap legislative elections if they work together. This will not be an easy task, as the leftist electoral coalition created for the 2022 legislative elections is in shambles.

Following the strong showing of the National Rally (RN) in Sunday's European parliament election, leaders of all of France's left wing parties called for unity in order to keep the far right from making inroads in legislative elections called by French President Emmanuel Macron after he dissolved parliament.

Coming in third, behind the far-right National Rally (31 percent) and Macron's Renaissance (14.6 percent), the Socialists won 13.83 percent of the vote on Sunday.

Together with the hard-left France Unbowed, the Communists and the Greens, leftist parties won about 31 percent of the vote, making a union a possible force against the far right.

What kind of union?

However, there are strong disagreements over what a leftist union would look like today, after the Socialists pulled out of the Nupes alliance, created for the 2022 legislative elections.

The parties have just 20 days to sort out their differences before the first round of the legislative election on 30 June.

Socialist party secretary Oliver Faure called for a union of the left to keep the far right out of the government.

"The far right is not just at the gates of power, it has a foot in the door," he said on France Info Monday, calling for a "popular front" against the far right in the elections.

He was echoing a call from France Unbowed deputy François Ruffin, who on Sunday called for a "popular front" – a reference to the leftist coalition that put the first-ever Socialist prime minister in power in France in 1936.

More of a unifier than his fellow France Unbowed members, Ruffin called on leftist political leaders to stop trading insults and work together.

What platform?

"We are at the moment building the bases of a hopeful alternative on the left," Socialist MEP Chloe Ridel told RFI on Monday, adding that the party is ready to present an "alternative" to the far right, with a "gathering of the forces of the left and the ecologists based on a clear and renewed platform".

The platform is a sticking point between the Socialists and the France Unbowed, whose leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon agrees on the principle of unity, but questioned the basis of it.

"We already have a shared platform," he said in a message on X, referring to the Nupes alliance, whose policy was driven by France Unbowed priorities, including withdrawing from nuclear energy or pushing for a minimum retirement age of 60, which not all Socialists or Communists agree on.

Left without Melenchon?

The Nupes alliance broke up largely because of disagreements over the dominance of Melenchon, who was positioned to become prime minister if the alliance won enough seats.

Any new union will have to decide whether to keep the same strategy, and try to hold onto the 150 seats won because of the alliance, or to change candidates to include more Socialists.

And what to do with the Greens? Scraping by with just over the five percent needed to have seats in the European Parliament, the Greens are in tatters.

"We want unity. Simple. Basic," wrote Marie Toussaint, head of the Greens' list.

Party secretary Marine Tondelier said the party was ready to do what is necessary, as "the moment is too serious to spend hours tearing each other apart".

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