French left vows ‘total break’ with Macron’s policies

Published June 15, 2024
Jordan Bardella (centre), the chief of French far-right Rassemblement National party, meets farmers during a campaign visit at a farm in Les Plets, central France, on Friday.—AFP
Jordan Bardella (centre), the chief of French far-right Rassemblement National party, meets farmers during a campaign visit at a farm in Les Plets, central France, on Friday.—AFP

PARIS: France’s left put up a united front on Friday, vowing a “total break” with President Emmanuel Macron’s policies if it wins polls on June 30 and July 7 that could propel the far right to major gains in parliament.

Far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen, also making a pitch to voters, pledged a “national unity government” if her party takes power in the snap legislative elections.

Macron stunned France on Sunday by calling polls after Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) scored more than double his centrist alliance’s result in last week’s European elections.

Left-wing outfits, including hard-left France Unbowed (LFI), the Socialist, Communist and Green parties, on Thursday agreed to 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.

They also promised to “rise to the climate challenge” — without agreeing on whether to go ahead with modernising France’s fleet of nuclear plants — and to keep up support for Ukraine against Russia.

“It’s going to be either the far-right, or us,” Greens party leader Marine Tondelier told reporters.

The coalition won backing from leading left-wing politician Raphael Glucksmann, 44, who led the Socialist-backed list in the European elections.

“We can’t leave France to the Le Pen family,” he 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.

She took over the National Front — founded in 1972 by a former SS member — from her father in 2011, renaming it and standing three times as its presidential candidate.

“Hate and discrimination”

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.

Francois Hollande, the Socialist former president, also backed the new union, saying the left forces had “got beyond our differences”.

Hitting the campaign trail in Pas-de-Calais, northern France, Le Pen claimed the RN 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, adding that the country was in a “catastrophic situation”.

The far right suffered one setback on Friday in the shape of an Instagram post from one of France’s top YouTubers, Squeezie — the alias of 28-year-old Lucas Hauchard.

“I’ve never wanted to talk to you about politics,” he told his almost nine million Instagram followers.

“But I think firmly opposing an extremist ideology that preaches hate and discrimination goes beyond any kind of political positioning,” he added, in a post that garnered almost 900,000 likes within a few hours.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2024

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