Before parliamentary elections: chaos and wrangling in France’s opposition

Before parliamentary elections: chaos and wrangling in France’s opposition
Before parliamentary elections: chaos and wrangling in France’s opposition

France’s opposition has to form itself at a rapid pace for the parliamentary elections called by President Macron. There are chaotic scenes on the left and the right and a tussle for positions.

With its powerful president and the central government in Paris, France usually presents an image of political stability. But since President Emmanuel Macron unexpectedly called new elections in response to the defeat of his liberal forces in the European elections and the landslide victory of the right-wing nationalists, a tussle for alliances, posts and constituencies has taken hold in French politics. Party bigwigs are being dumped and chaotic scenes are breaking out. What is going on in the neighboring country?

Many French people are rubbing their eyes in dismay at the spectacle that the opposition parties are putting on before the election – which is scheduled for two rounds on June 30 and July 7. Among them: the head of the bourgeois-conservative party Les Républicains, Éric Ciotti, who has the party headquarters sealed off to prevent a meeting to oust him, with a tug-of-war that has taken him to court and secret consultations with the extreme right.

Conservatives throw out their party leader twice within three days

At the beginning of the week, Ciotti had surprisingly and without prior agreement explored the possibility of cooperation with Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National (RN). Leaders of the former People’s Party, which last had Nicolas Sarkozy as president from 2007 to 2012, were outraged by this breach of taboo and threw Ciotti out of the party – twice within three days, because Ciotti considered the decision invalid according to the statutes.

But the drama didn’t stop there: On Friday evening, a Paris court provisionally overturned Ciotti’s expulsion in an emergency ruling: Ciotti had eight days to initiate main proceedings on the disputed issue, until then he would remain party leader. The party then announced that it would run independent candidates in the parliamentary elections – Ciotti’s plan, after consultations with RN leader Jordan Bardella, had been to cooperate with the right-wing RN in nominating candidates in the constituencies.

Right-wing extremist top candidate is also thrown out of party

Ciotti was not the only one who felt bad about a meeting with Bardella: on the Monday after the European elections, the leading candidate for the European elections of the far-right Reconquête party, Marion Maréchal, had spoken to the RN leader about cooperation. Reconquête President Éric Zemmour, who unlike Maréchal had fallen out with the Le Pen party, was not happy about this. On Wednesday he kicked Maréchal, a niece of the RN leader Marine Le Pen, out of the party. With Maréchal as its driving force, the party had just received 5.47 percent of the vote in the European elections.

But things are not going well for the left-wing camp either. A new left-wing alliance of the Socialists, the Left Party, the Greens and the Communists announced on Friday that they would run together in the election. However, they did not say who the leading candidate of the Le nouveau Front populaire (The New Popular Front) alliance would be. Despite the unity staged in front of the TV cameras, there is a showdown between the Socialists and the Left Party. The leading figure of the Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, wants to become Prime Minister if he wins. Unlike before the European elections, however, the Left Party is no longer the strongest left-wing party; it is the Socialists who scored points in the European elections with their candidate Raphaël Glucksmann.

Old leftist Mélenchon does not give up

Glucksmann spoke out against Mélenchon as the leading candidate – and the old leftist is also a thorn in the side of others in the left-wing camp. Both were absent from the family photo and the programmatic speeches on the new left-wing alliance on Friday. But it seems that the puppet master and strategist Mélenchon is far from giving up.

At the same time, there was great excitement in the Left Party about the list of candidates for the election, with talk of “purges” and “sectarianism”. Deserving MPs were not on the list, such as Alexis Corbière, who accused Mélenchon of “settling his scores”, as the broadcaster France Info reported. Green Party General Secretary Marine Tondelier said she was “extremely shocked” about what was happening in the Left Party and called for consultations – certainly not a good start for the new left-wing alliance.

Macron presents himself as a guarantor of stability

The chaos to the left and right of his center camp could well play into President Macron’s hands in the election – in any case, he presented himself and his movement as the only guarantor of stability in France and warned of the danger posed by the extreme left and right camps. The blocs do not agree on any future issues and cannot form a majority capable of governing.

“I firmly believe that only the political forces that today form the presidential majority have the ability to advance a coherent, realistic and forward-looking government project,” said Macron. Commentators in France also said that Macron may have deliberately provoked disarray among his opponents by holding the election at short notice in order to have a better hand as a political calming influence.

With so much at stake for France, the election campaign is also seeing interference from unexpected quarters. France’s second most popular YouTuber, the artist Squeezie, warned his nearly nine million followers on Instagram of a “drastic rise of the far right” and called on young people to vote.

Source: Stern

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