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Before the parliamentary elections: mass protests against the right in France

Before the parliamentary elections: mass protests against the right in France
Before the parliamentary elections: mass protests against the right in France

France’s opposition must form itself at a rapid pace for the parliamentary elections called by Macron. There is a tug-of-war on the left and the right over alliances – and at the same time there are large demonstrations against the right.

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 scramble for alliances and positions has spread in French politics, chaotic scenes have broken out and ex-presidents have gotten involved. Citizens are also speaking out: at the weekend, at least 250,000 people demonstrated in Paris and many cities against the rise of the right-wing camp that is striving for control of power.

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 June 30 and July 7 in two rounds. 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 most recently provided the president with Nicolas Sarkozy 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.

On Friday evening, a Paris court provisionally lifted Ciotti’s expulsion in an emergency ruling: he will remain party leader until the main proceedings are concluded. In the Sunday newspaper “JDD”, former President Sarkozy criticised Ciotti’s solo action: he should have consulted with the party’s leadership bodies and organised a short-term membership decision. Sarkozy also made it clear that he does not think much of Ciotti’s right-wing course: “I stick to my convictions. I do not share his.”

Hundreds of thousands demonstrate against shift to the right

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated across the country at the weekend against a shift to the right in France and the Le Pen party’s grip on power. “Either it’s the extreme right, or it’s us,” said the leader of France’s Left Party, Mathilde Panot, at the head of the Paris demonstration with a view to the election. “You don’t have to vote RN to love France” and “Never again” were also written on banners carried by demonstrators in Marseille. The anxious question for many people is whether the firewall against the right will hold this time, which has so far prevented the right from coming to power in France in the decisive round of voting.

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 that they would run together in the election – but without initially naming a top candidate. 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 a top candidate – and the old left is also a thorn in the side of others in the left-wing camp. But Mélenchon, the puppet master and strategist, is clearly not giving up and is getting his way when it comes to drawing up the list of candidates. There was talk of “purges” and “sectarianism” on Saturday when deserving MPs were not included on the list – such as Alexis Corbière, who accused Mélenchon of “settling his scores”. Mélenchon countered in the newspaper “20 minutes”: “There are no lifelong places on the list”. What counts is political coherence and loyalty in the parliamentary group.

Green Party General Secretary Marine Tondelier said she was “extremely shocked” by what was happening in the Left Party and called for consultations. Others in the new alliance also reacted with irritation – not a good start for the new left-wing alliance. It received unexpected support from former President François Hollande (69), who announced his candidacy as a member of parliament. “The extreme right has never been so close to power. There is political confusion in our country,” the socialist said on Saturday. In view of this serious situation, he has decided to run for election.

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 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,” Macron said. 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.

Source: Stern

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