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FRENCH POLITICS

Will France’s left-wing parties manage to build an anti-Macron alliance?

France's left-wing parties are attempting to patch together an alliance ahead of June parliamentary elections which would give them a chance of thwarting newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron.

Will France's left-wing parties manage to build an anti-Macron alliance?
France's leftist movement La France Insoumise (LFI) party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon talks to the press (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The left fielded a total of six candidates in France’s April presidential election, splitting the vote. All of them were eliminated in the first round.

The hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party, the Socialists, the Greens and the Communists are now attempting to agree a united front before a weekend deadline ahead of the June 12th and 19th polls.

READ ALSO French parliamentary elections – why are they important?

“I’m very hopeful that these negotiations will come to a successful end in the next few hours,” the head of the environmentalist Green party, Julien Bayou, told the France 2 channel.

“We can agree on the fundamentals and much more,” he said, adding that “a deal was in sight” between his party and France Unbowed, known in French by its initials LFI.

The multi-party talks are being led by LFI chief Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished third in the presidential election and now the dominant figure on the French left.

The 70-year-old former Trotskyist has declared his aim of becoming prime minister under Macron in order to block the president’s reform plans which include raising the retirement age.

The Socialist Party, which is fighting for survival after winning less than two percent in the presidential election, indicated Friday that it could broadly accept 12 core policy proposals by Mélenchon.

These include raising the minimum wage, reducing the retirement age to 60 and rolling back labour market reforms.

But the party then suspended talks and called for a “guarantee” that all parties would be respected in the alliance and that Melenchon “ends any hegemonic way of thinking.”

Analysts say that any alliance will require left-wing parties to overcome historic rivalries and hammer out a tricky agreement to divide up parliamentary constituencies.

Restructuring

The talks are part of a restructuring of French politics following Macron’s re-election triumph over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round last Sunday.

With France’s traditional left- and right-wing parties pushed to the margins, three new dominant blocs have emerged – Macron in the centre, Le Pen on the right and Mélenchon on the left.

Former Socialist president François Hollande, who is known to be keen to re-enter politics, has warned the proposed left-wing tie up could amount to the “disappearance” of the Socialists.

But political scientist Remi Lefebvre told AFP that the party “has absolutely no other option” than the deal because it risks losing “most” of its MPs in June.

Melenchon, who scored 22 percent of the first-round presidential vote, has also been talking to the Communist Party, whose candidate Fabien Roussel scored 2.3 percent in the presidential vote. Roussel, however, warned on Thursday that talks were at a “standstill”.

On the far-right, Le Pen looks set to spurn a suggestion of formally combining forces with far-right rival Eric Zemmour with whom she has clashed repeatedly.

A recent poll by the Harris Interactive group suggested that her far-right Rassemblement National party could win 75-105 seats in the 577-seat national assembly without a Zemmour alliance.

Many centre-right politicians from the Republicans party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy are expected to defect to one of several centrist or centre-right movements backing Macron.

The 44-year-old head of state is preparing to name a new government headed by a fresh prime minister who will be “attached to environmental, social and productivity issues”.

“There will be some elements of continuity and new elements,” he said of his new government during a trip to the southern Pyrenees mountains on Friday.

The leftist candidates in the first round of the presidential election were; Jean-Luc Mélenchon (who achieved 22 percent of the vote) green Yannick Jadot (4.6 percent), communist Fabien Roussel (2.2 percent), Parti Socialiste Anne Hidalgo (1.7 percent), Trotskyist Philippe Poutou (0.7 percent) and fellow Trotskyist Nathalie Arthaud (0.5 percent).

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POLITICS

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

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