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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

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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