French leftist coalition hoping to be a block against far-right government

French leftist coalition hoping to be a block against far-right government

When French President Emmanuel Macron called for a snap legislative election in early June, an activist working to bring quality food to poor neighbourhoods decided to run as a candidate.

Boris Tavernier has lived in Lyon for more than 20 years and said that the issue of food security is related to multiple topics such as agriculture, health and the environment. However, he felt a representative on the issue was missing in parliament.

“I told myself it will be three difficult years (before the next elections), but I didn’t see myself not doing anything and sitting put,” he told Euronews.

Tavernier is now a candidate with the New Popular Front (NFP), a coalition of left-wing parties that follows the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (Nupes) alliance that came second in the 2022 legislative elections.

According to the polls, this time around, the amalgamation of left-wing parties could come second to the National Rally (RN), with Macron’s centrists finishing in third place.

The NFP contains multiple moderate as well as more leftist parties that have long disagreed with Macron’s policies, which they believe further exacerbate inequalities.

They want to repeal his controversial retirement reform, raise the minimum wage to €1,600 a month, and increase support for the climate.

The programme, its activists say, is more moderate than the last coalition’s.

Candidates for the New Popular Front in Lyon at a gathering to galvanise left-wing voters. Boris Tavernier is on the right.
Candidates for the New Popular Front in Lyon at a gathering to galvanise left-wing voters. Boris Tavernier is on the right. - Euronews

“I would not (have left civil society) without a union, that is clear, and I would not (have left) without certain things listed in the programme, which were also red lines for me,” said Tavernier.

“This very important question of the fight against racism, anti-semitism and all forms of discrimination in particular,” he added.

But at times, the coalition has had a difficult time appearing as one unit.

While the other parties also have clear leaders in Prime Minister Gabriel Attal for the presidential coalition and 28-year-old Jordan Bardella for the RN, a different left-wing political figure participates in each debate.

Notably absent from those debates is also Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the presidential race in 2022 but has been the subject of much criticism due to his stance on the conflict in Israel and Gaza and downplaying the threat of antisemitism in France.

Mélenchon said in December that the coalition of left-wing parties no longer existed, and his name comes up often among voters who say they want to prevent him from being in government or those who say the left would be better off without him.

The founder of la France Insoumise (France Unbowed) has said that excluding him could influence voters who support his movement, while other left-wing parties in the coalition have agreed that he would not be prime minister if the NFP wins the legislative elections.

Macron has said his party represents a third way between two extremes on the left and the right.

But members of the leftist coalition heavily reject being pitted against the far-right as another extreme, with Marine Tondelier, the head of the Green Party, saying on French radio the president’s party had “lost all historical references”.

“Macron has done everything to un-demonise the far right and then it’s us the mean ones,” added Tavernier. “I find that crazy.”

Inspired by the 1936 socialist movement

The New Popular Front (NFP) calls back to a nearly a century-old movement of left-wing parties, which at the time was led by the Socialist Party.

Paul Bacot, an emeritus professor of political science at the Lyon Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po Lyon), says there are big differences between the historic movement and today on the left.

“The first difference is that the Popular Front in 1936 was a political reality that was linked to a large-scale and strong social movement of factory strikes. It relied on a large and mobilised working class,” said Bacot.

That working class is now “overwhelmingly voting for the National Rally,” Bacot said. “And the social movements, there was the one against the retirement reform, but the Yellow Vests protests were bearers of the politics of the National Rally more than the left.”

The Socialists saw their support fall significantly in the 2017 and 2022 presidential elections, but political analysts say there may be room for the traditional left-wing party to carve out a new space for itself given its performance in the recent European elections.

But the dissolution of parliament right after meant that they haven’t been able to reap the rewards, Bacot said.

For now, the left is focused on blocking the far right. Grégory Doucet, the Green Party mayor of Lyon, said Macron’s dissolution of parliament has put the country in danger and that the NFP wants to govern as a collective.

“When we govern, we govern with all those with whom we share fundamental values,” Doucet told Euronews.

“We can disagree on this or that point, but how do you want to represent the diversity of a country by wanting to govern alone?”

“This is what Emmanuel Macron has been doing since 2017. This is not what we want.”