French leftists seek alliance in quest for anti-Macron majority in parliament

Parties defeated in April's presidential race look to revive fortunes in legislative elections

Jean-Luc Melenchon told a May Day rally his party would not compromise on its opposition to Emmanuel Macron's pension plans. AFP
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France’s left-wing parties are poised to join forces to improve their chances at parliamentary elections next month, after they were outmanoeuvred by the centre and right in the race for the presidency.

The presidential race saw leftists split between the firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, a diminished Socialist Party, a green candidate and an assortment of communists, ensuring all of them were eliminated in the first round.

But allies of Mr Melenchon, who came third behind President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen, said on Monday they had struck a deal with the ecologists to run a joint list of candidates for the National Assembly.

Their aim is to influence Mr Macron's policies by forcing him to work with a left-wing majority in the assembly, which has been dominated by the president’s supporters since the last election in 2017.

Manon Aubry, a member of Mr Melenchon’s France Unbowed party, said the deal had emerged from “long nights of discussions” and that a joint manifesto would be unveiled next weekend.

The two-round vote in June “will be the third round of the presidential election, which did not settle the big political debates in this country,” Ms Aubry said. “We can prevent Macron from continuing his social damage.”

Emmanuel Macron was re-elected as president in April but his party must now battle for a renewed majority in parliament. Bloomberg

The Socialist Party, once the dominant force on the French left but relegated to a humiliating tenth place in April’s first round, has yet to sign up to the pact but has taken part in talks with France Unbowed, the greens and the communists.

Party secretary Olivier Faure suggested there were divisions over Europe as the EU-friendly socialists tussle with the more Eurosceptic Mr Melenchon.

He said he hoped for an agreement but his party’s strength in French regional governments should give it more clout in a potential alliance than its paltry 1.8 per cent of the vote in the presidential election would suggest.

The French Communist Party said on Tuesday its national executive had given approval for negotiators to agree a deal and join what has been dubbed the “popular union”.

Mr Macron’s allies sought to attack the fledgling alliance as incoherent, as the president seeks a second majority which would be a rarity in modern French politics.

Previous presidents Jacques Chirac and Francois Mitterrand had to govern at various times in an awkward “cohabitation” with rival parties, forcing them to name political opponents as prime minister.

Although Mr Macron would retain his presidential pulpit and many foreign policy powers in such an arrangement, opposition MPs could frustrate his domestic reform agenda.

Mr Melenchon told a May Day rally his movement would “not make a single concession” on the heated issue of pensions, where the president wants to raise the retirement age to 65.

Ms Le Pen’s party also has its eye on a parliamentary success after taking 42 per cent of the vote in the second presidential round, the closest it has ever come to winning the Elysee Palace.

Meanwhile, the centre-right Republicans are divided between those who might co-operate with Mr Macron in parliament and others who would be willing to make overtures to the far right.

Updated: May 03, 2022, 12:09 PM