By Sankar Ray
“France has had enough of its monarch president. If the French people decide to give us the majority then we will govern. . . Fate is in your hands,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the coalition of various shades of left and green, said forcefully at a workers’ meeting a few days before the June 19 runoff election for L’Assemblée de 577 members. nationale (French parliament).. The maverick ultra-left icon failed to defeat the Ensemble coalition led by President Emmanuel Macron, but the ruling party fell well short of the majority. Neither party is dominant in the new chamber. It obtained 245 seats, 101 less than in the last elections of 2017. Its percentage of votes is 38.6 percent. France now has a hung Parliament.
The red-green alliance of Mélenchon Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale (the New Popular Ecological and Social Union – NUPES) made great strides by winning 131 seats with a 31.6 percent share of the vote. Another 22 seats went to various other leftist candidates. But the far-right Rassemblement National party won 89 seats, 11 times more than in 2017, with less than 18 percent of the vote. The Ensemble led by President Emannuel Macron emerged as the largest single group, but to form the government, it needs the support of 44 parliamentarians. In the previous parliament, Macron’s La République En Marche and his allies had a majority. Wait until he comes to terms with Perrine “Marine” Le Pen, a registered nurse, or other conservatives.
Things might have been different if 52 percent of voters had not abstained from casting their ballot. Some left-wing columnists say that this benefited the extreme right and deprived NUPES of the expected results. However, no pollster projected that NUPES would overtake the ruling coalition to get ahead of the president’s coalition in terms of number of seats on the night of the second round on June 19.
Even the incorrigible optimists did not expect NUPES to win more than 200 seats. Nonetheless, NUPES will be a key player in French politics and government in the next five years. In fact, some commentators think that NUPES supremo Jean-Luc Melenchon should prepare for a decisive parliamentary election in 2027. NUPES’ strength in the new parliament has increased by more than 40 percent. Melenchon, head of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed, LFI) is expected to start campaigning for the LFI’s politico-economic agenda: dismantling the Fifth Republic and establishing a Sixth Republic, better socio-economic programs such as age reduction of retirement. from 62 to 60 years old and an increase in the monthly minimum wage to €1,500 ($1,575) and price caps for basic foods. Melenchon is for disobeying such European Union rules that conflict with France’s interests. In short, Melenchon’s anti-capitalist leadership is open and binding for the leftist parties. .
However, the most worrying result of last Sunday’s parliamentary elections is the rise of the far-right RN. It is a great political shock. Le Pen, hailing what he called a historic event, vows to mount “firm opposition” to the president’s agenda while remaining “respectful” of France’s institutions. “The French people have decided to send a very powerful group from the National Rally to the National Assembly, making it a little more ‘national,'” he told his supporters.
However, NUPES will be at the forefront of the resistance against the shift to the right in French politics and government. It is less a new left than a new way of organizing France’s left movements after the collapse of the Socialist Party under Hollande’s leadership. The Communist Party of France, which is now a constituent of NUPES, is weaker than ever. Melenchon’s call for popular politics has attracted voters from both parties. NUPES is preparing for constitutional reforms such as more citizen referendums that would reduce the power of the French president. These two parties, as well as the Greens that form the alliance, have united around
The future of the red-green alliance that emerged as a new type of leftism depends on Melenchon. It is a new experiment. An eloquent and formidable polemicist charged with a volcanic personality made a strange decision by choosing not to stand for reelection in the Assemblée Nationale, which could become the front line of French politics in the event of a relative majority for the presidential coalition.
A section of French political commentators describes NUPES as an “unquestionable political marketing success”, but it also masks a statistical stagnation. In total, it did not actually win that many more votes in the first round than the left-wing parties that had campaigned separately in 2017 combined (26.1 per cent of the vote instead of 25.4 per cent). Melenchon has been able to invigorate the functioning of the left that faced stagnation for a long time. Even if Macron’s coalition is able to form the new government in the next two months, the left led by Melenchon has a great capacity to intervene in political matters. Melenchon has come as an alternative, and how the coalition navigates the current tumultuous period will determine the future of the left for the next five years. (IPA service)
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