French left agrees to form alliance ahead of June vote: LFI

Melenchon’s hard-left LFI and the Socialist Party agree in principle to unite against Macron’s La Republique en Marche in the parliamentary vote.

French leftist movement La France Insoumise's (LFI) leader and three times presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon arrives at LFI's headquarters in Paris
Melenchon has managed to unite the Greens, the Communists and the Socialists under a new banner [Emmanuel Dunand/AFP]

France’s Socialist Party and the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party have reached an agreement in principle to form an alliance for the June 12-19 parliament vote, according to LFI politician Adrien Quatennens.

The coalition deal, shaped under the leadership of hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, is an attempt to deprive President Emmanuel Macron‘s La Republique en Marche party of a majority in parliament and block his pro-business agenda.

Melenchon, a radical eurosceptic, has managed to unite the Greens, the Communists and the Socialists under a new banner that could raise eyebrows across the EU, as its platform aims to challenge the main tenets of the bloc’s economic policies.

“We can and will beat Emmanuel Macron and we can do it with a majority to govern for a radical programme,” Quatennens said on Franceinfo radio on Wednesday.

A source in the Socialist Party said there was a deal on who would run in what constituency and on the overall strategy, but negotiators still needed to finalise a deal on the programme itself.

The deal would then need to be approved by the Socialist Party’s national committee.

Greens, Communists

LFI earlier made similar deals with the French Greens and the Communists, creating a united front under the leadership of Melenchon.

The deal, if confirmed, will unite parties that have run separately in elections since the left-Green coalition deal of 1997-2002.

The pro-European Socialists had been the main holdouts after days of negotiations at the headquarters of the eurosceptic Melenchon’s party.

The latest Harris Interactive poll showed the two sides are neck and neck, with both a united left and an alliance between Macron’s party and the conservatives seen garnering 33 percent of the legislative vote.

However, in France’s two-round election system, projections show this could still translate into a majority of seats for the president.

A turning point

Melenchon’s success in striking a deal in principle with the Socialists, the former dominant force on the left, will mark a turning point for a party that gave the country two presidents since World War II and has been a driving force for European integration.

Melenchon, who broke from the Socialist Party in 2008 after failing to dilute its pro-EU stance, wants to “disobey” the bloc’s rules on budget and competition issues and challenge its free-market principles. He also wants France to leave NATO.

The decision by Socialist Party leaders to negotiate a deal with Melenchon was criticised by some of its most prominent figures, including former President Francois Hollande, who said it could mark the end of a pro-EU force on the left.

But the Socialists had little leeway in the talks.

Their candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, garnered a meagre 1.75 percent of votes cast in last month’s presidential ballot. However, they still control many local authorities.

Policies of the new alliance, which will run under the “Social and Ecological People’s Union”, also include plans to lower the retirement age to 60, raise the minimum wage and cap prices on essential products.

Source: Reuters