French left vows 'total break' with Macron policies

AFP , Friday 14 Jun 2024

France's left put up a united front on Friday, vowing a "total break" with President Emmanuel Macron's policies if it wins historic polls, while far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen pledged a "national unity government" if her party emerges victorious.

Communist Party national secretary Fabien Roussel, gestures as he speaks during media conference as he is surrounded by leaders of France left-wing coalition for the upcoming election attend a media conference in Paris, Friday, June 14, 2024. AP


President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday stunned France by calling snap legislative elections for June 30, with a second round on July 7, after Le Pen's far-right National Rally (NR) scored more than double the number of votes of his centrist alliance in last week's European elections.

After four days of intense negotiations, left-wing leaders including the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI), the Socialist, Communist and Green parties said late on Thursday they had agreed on an election alliance called the New Popular Front.

On Friday, they unveiled a joint manifesto, whose headline measures included jettisoning Macron's controversial immigration and pension reforms if they win the polls.

"It's going to be either the far right or us," Greens party leader Marine Tondelier told reporters.

The New Popular Front pledged to "unfailingly defend the sovereignty and freedom of the Ukrainian people" and to provide Kyiv with arms deliveries.

The coalition also proposed sending peacekeepers to secure nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

Earlier on Friday, leading left-wing French politician Raphael Glucksmann threw his weight behind the coalition -- despite remaining differences between its parties -- saying it was the "only way" to prevent a far-right victory.

"We can't leave France to the Le Pen family," 44-year-old Glucksman, who led the Socialist-backed list in the European elections, told broadcaster France Inter.

The name of the alliance is a nod to the Popular Front, a political alliance founded in France in 1936 to combat fascism.

Opinion polls suggest Le Pen's party will massively increase its parliamentary presence from its current 88 out of 577 seats.

The far-right National Rally was previously known as the National Front, which was co-founded by former Waffen-SS member Pierre Bousquet in 1972.

Le Pen took over as the leading figure of the National Front from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, renaming it and standing three times as its presidential candidate.


'Knot in my stomach'

Glucksmann accused Macron of plunging France "into chaos".

"Since Sunday night, I've had a knot in my stomach," he said.

It remained unclear who would lead the New Popular Front and become prime minister in case of victory.

Glucksmann ruled out the LFI's abrasive leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, saying: "We need someone who can achieve consensus."

Francois Hollande, the Socialist former president, also pronounced himself in favour of the new union, saying the left forces had "got beyond our differences".

Hitting the campaign trail in Pas-de-Calais in northern France, Le Pen claimed National Rally could win the elections and form a "national unity government".

"We need to pull France out of the rut," said the 55-year-old, who is expected to run for a fourth time in the 2027 presidential election.

"We will gather all French people -- men and women of goodwill -- who are aware of the catastrophic situation in our country," she said.


'This is courageous'

By contrast, other right-wing parties were mired in infighting.

Eric Ciotti, leader of the mainstream conservative Republicans, broke a historic taboo this week, announcing that his party would form an electoral alliance with the far-right NR.

The rest of the party leadership promptly expelled him.

Ciotti insists he remains party chairman and is challenging his ousting in court.

The Republicans' political bureau held a fresh meeting by videoconference on Friday and confirmed Ciotti's expulsion, party sources told AFP.

The 28-year-old NR chairman, Jordan Bardella, said the far-right party and the Republicans would put up joint candidates in 70 of France's 577 parliamentary constituencies, hailing what he said was a "historic agreement."

He said he wanted to obtain the "broadest possible majority".

Macron remained defiant, defending his decision to dissolve parliament and call snap elections.

Speaking at a G7 summit in Italy on Thursday, he said his G7 counterparts praised his move.

"They all said: 'This is courageous'", Macron told journalists.

He indicated he hoped to score points by hosting the Olympic Games in Paris from July 26, saying French people would want leaders "who have prepared for these Games".

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