Far left and far right herald Greece’s ‘No’ vote

While France’s mainstream parties differ wildly over what to do with Greece, the country’s more extreme political groups on the far left and the far right have both hailed the referendum result.

Far left and far right herald Greece’s 'No' vote
Marine Le Pen was thrilled by Sunday's Greek referendum result. Photo: AFP

France’s Socialist and centre-right Republicans parties reacted very differently to Greece’s sensational “No” vote in the referendum on Sunday.

Hollande and his government have left the door open for Greece calling for more negotiations with Athens to show the way with new proposals on how to deal with the crippling debt.

Over on the right, however, Alain Juppé, a candidate for the presidency in 2017, said Greece should be ushered out of the euro without “any drama”.

But both the far-right National Front and France’s leftist parties were unanimous in celebrating the result of the Greek referendum which has sent shockwaves around Europe.

For the anti-EU National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, the “No” vote represented a “rebellion against European dictats”, according to the party's vice president, Florian Philippot.

He also hailed the result as “the beginning of the end of the eurozone”.

“This shows that the European Union is not irreversible,” Philippot added.

Marine Le Pen, who once said her aim was to “explode the EU” is likely to try to capitalize on the continued chaos around Greece, especially if the once unthinkable happens and the country is forced to leave the eurozone.

After the referendum result became clear, Le Pen said that European countries must “get around the table, take note of the clear failure of the euro and of austerity and organize the dissolution of the single currency, which is essential to restoring growth and employment.”

The fact that the “No” vote was a victory for Greece’s far-left Syriza party and their prime minister Alexis Tsipras, did not take the shine off for France’s National Front.

“If the big debate in Europe… must begin with the victory of Syriza in Greece, the yes, I strongly support that victory,” said Philippot previously.

But Greece’s firm “No” to the country’s creditors has also given a boost to the far-left parties in France and notably the country’s own version of Tsipras, who comes in the form of firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Mélenchon was celebrating in Place de la République on Sunday night and hopes the result in Greece could improve his chances of making a mark on the 2017 presidential elections.

Mélenchon and his Parti de Gauche are not as outright anti-EU as Le Pen and co, but they are firmly against the EU’s chosen economic path of austerity.

Mélenchon called the referendum result “a failure for a sneaky and calamitious project”.

“We need to stop taking the Greek people for fools,” said Mélenchon. “And stop forcing the [Greek] government to do the opposite of what it was elected for.”

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Tens of thousands march against far-right in France

Tens of thousands of people across France on Saturday marched against "attacks on freedoms" and what organisers said was a growing influence of far-right ideas ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France
A "Freedom march" called by several organisations, associations and trade unions to "combat extreme right-wing ideas" on June 12. credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP

Members of more than 100 left-leaning organisations participated in the “Liberty March” in cities and towns across the country.

The protests were the first opportunity for a divided left to take to the streets after a year and a half of Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers reported 70,000 participants in Paris and 150,000 around the nation, while the Paris police and interior ministry put the numbers at 9,000 in the capital and 37,000 nationwide.

The interior ministry said 119 rallies had taken place.

In Nantes, western France, around 900 people rallied, according to the local prefecture, including scores of far-left militants who clashed with police.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, more than a thousand demonstrators marched behind a CGT union banner that called for “unity to break down the capitalism that leads to fascism”.

Protesters vented against issues ranging from recent legislation they say chips away at liberties, such as a law that could see prosecutions for publishing images of police officers in action, to what they charge is a creep of far-right ideas into the mainstream ahead of next year’s elections.

In the southern city of Toulouse, a 54-year-old teacher and union activist who gave his name as Gauthier remarked that students had begun to challenge him and warned that “extreme right ideas are gaining ground”.

Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.

In Paris, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had flour thrown in his face as he spoke to reporters.

A suspect arrested later in the day claimed to be a “sovereigntist” who social network specialists said broadcast far-right commentary on YouTube.

The move against Melenchon, who has been accused of fuelling conspiracy theories ahead of the presidential election, came days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while shaking hands with people on a regional visit.

Other events that have caused concern in France recently are allegations of ties between far-left figures including Melenchon and Islamists, a YouTube video that simulated the execution of a militant from his France Unbowed party, and university gatherings at which Caucasian participants were allegedly not allowed to speak.

Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday as a bid to deflect attention from Melenchon’s remarks on terrorism and the 2022 presidential election.

Groups that took part included Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions.

READ MORE: Calls for nationwide day of demonstrations in France against ‘far-right ideology’