The principle of agreement reached at dawn on Wednesday between Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insumisa (LFI) and the French Socialist Party (PS) is added to the one signed in previous days by environmentalists and communists. This alliance of forces is unparalleled in the most recent history of the country, above all because it represents, according to specialists such as the historian Gilles Candar, a turn to the most radical left of the entire progressive spectrum in France.
Since François Hollande’s Socialists left power in 2017, the decline of the left has been constant. Despite this, election after election, the formations failed to reach an agreement to go together, suffering from protagonism —who had the right to lead an alliance and set the conditions— and insurmountable differences, both in internal politics and, on everything, abroad, especially in its positions on Europe and NATO.
Mélenchon, head of the negotiations and of the new alliance
The huge difference in votes compared to his left-wing rivals in the last presidential elections has given Mélenchon, who ran under the Popular Union platform, the necessary argument to relaunch negotiations with the other formations from a position of strength facing the June legislative In these elections, which are planned as the “third round” of the presidential elections, the left, like the extreme right of Marine Le Pen, is seeking a parliamentary majority to act as a counterweight to Emmanuel Macron and even impose a prime minister in what it would be the first cohabitation government since 2002.
Mélenchon, for his part, has already launched his electoral propaganda with the slogan “prime minister”. Under this strategy, and with the argument that his movement was the leftist force with the most support (7.7 million votes, almost 22%) in the presidential elections, he has been able to force some pacts by widely imposing the program of the. Significantly, the negotiations have taken place at the headquarters of France Insumisa in Paris and not in a neutral zone.
Domestic policy, axis of the agreement
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If he were to achieve his goal of becoming prime minister, Mélenchon would have the power above all to act on domestic politics, the key objective of this alliance. Thanks to his position of strength, the melenchonistas have managed to get the other parties to accept most of their program, especially his promise to return to retirement at age 60 (he is now 62). This issue is key in the new mandate of a Macron who wants to delay it until the age of 65, despite the opposition of the majority of the unions and the forces of the left. However, parties such as the socialists and the environmentalists advocated maintaining retirement at 62 years of age because they considered it impossible to finance an advance, although they now accept the melenchonist postulates.
The pact to form the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES), the name of the platform under which the united leftist parties will concur, also plans to increase the minimum wage to 1,400 euros net (now it is 1,302), the “blockade ” prices for basic necessities, the eradication of poverty and the “guarantee of autonomy” for young people, with a minimum income above 1,063 euros of the poverty line for those who do not live with their parents, according to the joint statement that ecologists and melenchonistas advanced on Monday.
Heading to the VI Republic
The agreement also shows disposition to another long-standing objective of Mélenchon: to go from the V to the VI Republic to “end presidentialism”, the enormous powers that the tenant of the Elysée has in the system devised by Charles de Gaulle. He also seeks to “introduce new rights, especially the citizen initiative referendum”, one of the demands of recent years of the yellow vests.
An alliance forced by circumstances
The debacle of most of the forces of the left in the presidential elections in April, to which they attended divided, changed the situation. Except for Mélenchon, all the left-wing candidates fell below the 5% of votes that allow a party to recover campaign expenses. Socialist Anne Hidalgo barely obtained 1.7% of the vote, the worst result in the history of the PS (which five years ago believed it had bottomed out by winning 6.4% of the vote after the presidential period of François Hollande). Hidalgo was even behind the communist Fabien Roussel (2.3%) and the environmentalist Yannick Jadot (4.6%).
Far ahead was Mélenchon. With almost 22% of the votes, the leader of France Insumisa was at the gates of the second round, which was finally held between the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, and the centrist Emmanuel Macron, who was re-elected.
The thorny European “disobedience”
Although for the legislative elections foreign policy issues are not a priority, Mélenchon’s euroscepticism had until now been a red line that both environmentalists and socialists refused to cross.
However, the pact – pending internal ratification by the Social Democrats – changes everything, since it implies – although they paraphrase it – assuming “disobedience” to the European treaties promoted by the rebellious. It is also true that they no longer speak of a “plan B” for Europe, which would have meant de facto a “frexit” [salida de Francia de la Unión Europea], as they did five years ago. In 2017, Mélenchon proposed a “plan A”, which involved a “concerted exit from the European treaties” and the “negotiation of other rules”. And, if that idea failed, he had a “plan B” up his sleeve that involved France’s “unilateral withdrawal from European treaties to propose other cooperation.”
The environmentalists managed to impose that in the joint statement that will serve as the programmatic basis for the alliance, it should be stressed that “France cannot have as a policy neither the exit from the Union, nor its disintegration, nor the end of the single currency.” But they accept the disobedience thesis for some cases, which could cause harsh clashes with Brussels. Thus, they declare themselves “willing to disobey certain European rules (particularly economic and budgetary, such as the Stability and Growth Pact, competition law, productivist and neoliberal guidelines of the Common Agricultural Policy, etc.)”.
The question remains whether the entire PS will accept these postulates. A key to the dilemma was given on Tuesday by the small Left Radical Party —it now has three deputies—, which announced that it will not join the pact with the rebellious precisely because it considers it impossible to ally with “candidates who are against European universalism”. According to the president of the centre-left formation, refusing to apply the EU directives means “confirming the weakness of France”. “I don’t know how to become a European à la carte in five days,” said the president of that party, Guillaume Lacroix, ironically.
Another sticky point in foreign policy was NATO and the war in Ukraine. But it has been resolved, at least according to environmentalists, with a somewhat vague declaration of principles, according to the statement: “In an international context of tensions and war on the European continent, we continue to work on our convergences to find ways and means to restore peace, preserve the territorial integrity of all countries, initiate cooperation to work for a world that respects human rights, democracy and the fight against climate change”.
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