French left agrees rare alliance deal to take on Macron

Move could threaten French president’s chances of securing National Assembly majority

The French Socialist Party (PS) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's far left party, La France Insoumise (LFI), have reached agreement on an alliance for next month's legislative elections. The environmentalist party EELV and the Communists (PCF) concluded pacts with LFI earlier in the week.

The PS national committee is to meet to validate the accord on Thursday evening. If the text is accepted, the New Popular Union will constitute the first left-wing coalition in 20 years. It could threaten President Emmanuel Macron's chances of obtaining a majority in the National Assembly in the two-round election scheduled for June 12th and 19th.

"We want to get deputies elected in a majority of districts, to prevent Emmanuel Macron from pursuing his unjust and brutal policies ... and defeat the extreme right," said a joint statement by the PS and LFI.

The agreement focuses on the number of districts where each party will field candidates. Left-wing incumbents will be allowed to stand for re-election.

Based on the strength of Mélenchon’s strong score of 22 per cent in the first round of the presidential election on April 10th, LFI has reserved 357 of France’s 577 mainland constituencies for its own candidates. Mélenchon says he wants the French to “elect [him] as prime minister” and his party has driven a hard bargain.

The Greens will stand in close to 100 districts, of which they are positioned to win about 30. The PS has been attributed 70 districts. LFI negotiators had accused the PS of being "greedy" and failing to understand the consequences of its disastrous 1.7 per cent score in the presidential contest. Communists will field about 50 candidates.

The New Popular Union will present its candidates and programme on Saturday, the day of Emmanuel Macron's inauguration.

The left-wing alliance’s hopes of winning a majority in the National Assembly are undermined by major policy differences, starting with Mélenchon’s advocacy of “disobedience” to EU treaties. EELV fears that a French “opt-out” would lead to a dangerous confrontation between France and its European partners. The Greens have limited the possibility of “disobedience” to budgetary and economic matters in the EU, which is still unacceptable to the PS.

Divided

During his presidential campaign, Mélenchon said he wants France to be "non-aligned ...which does not mean neutral". This too is unacceptable to EELV and the PS, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine.

LFI, the PCF and the tiny Trotskyist party NPA, which may also join the alliance, want France to withdraw eventually from Nato, a move which is also opposed by EELV and the PS.

The PS is divided internally regarding an alliance with LFI. Some militants welcome what they say is a return to the party’s social and environmentalist roots. Others see it as a take-over by a renegade extremist of the party which gave France two presidents.

Negotiations between PS and LFI leaders lasted two days and nights. Officials had hoped to conclude the accord on May 3rd, the anniversary of the left-wing Popular Front's election win in 1936. Benoît Hamon, who lost badly as the PS presidential candidate in 2017, tweeted on Tuesday: "On this anniversary of the victory of the Popular Front, I say that rallying around the Popular Union is great news".

The PS establishment, which ruled France from 2012 until 2017, disapproves of the alliance with Mélenchon, who broke off from the PS 14 years ago and founded first Le Parti de Gauche and then LFI as vehicles for his presidential ambitions.

The former Socialist president François Hollande, along with a former prime minister, former agriculture minister and former leader of the party have all spoken out against the alliance.