Mélenchon and the French Left dent Macron’s centrist ambitions

By Bradley Bernard

JEAN-LUC Mélenchon’s strong performance in the French legislative elections may drive Emmanuel Macron’s party to the right, an expert has said.

The firebrand leftist’s NUPES coalition – which included his own La France Insoumise (LFI), the Socialist Party and others – denied Macron’s Ensemble alliance a majority in this month’s elections.

NUPES more than doubled its seats to 131, while Ensemble garnered just 245 – resulting in a hung parliament.

Though Macron comfortably won the Presidency in April, not having full control of parliament will make it difficult to implement his political agenda.

Mélenchon, who was close to making the second round in the Presidential election, capitalised on the anti-Macron sentiment that has been building in recent months.

READ MORE: French Left must continue to do battle with insipid Macron

Dr Paul Smith, an expert in French Politics at the University of Nottingham, told Redaction Report: “It’s not a surprising score [for Mélenchon] given the rallying of a whole bunch of other parties – the PS, Greens (EELV), Communists, plus the Trotskyist far-left not running against NUPES candidates in some places.

“But Mélenchon has done better than we expected, let’s not muck about with this. I bought into the idea that abstentions would dent his vote. Usually it’s the young and the less well-off who abstain and they are his (and Le Pen’s) voters.

And yet it’s a good performance and his ‘slogan’ or idea of getting people to think if they vote NUPES Macron will have to make him PM has been very effective in the face of a deplorable campaign by Macron and his supporters.

44 seats short of a majority in the National Assembly, Macron has been unable to sort out his difficulties with the French Parliament.

According to a report by Bloomberg this week, the President has been unable to make any headway with right or left.

But there are suggestions that while the likes of LFI and the Greens have outright rejected the idea of an agreement, right-wing parties, who will meet with premier Élisabeth Borne in the coming weeks, may be more tempted.

And this is where Macron may be pulled right.

“What will need to be watched is how Les Républicains, the old right-wing party, responds,” Dr Smith added.

“While the number of seats it is likely to win has been slashed, in fact it might well be in  a position to negotiate. The problem for LR is that some of its leading figures pull towards the centre and others to an authoritarian right.”

READ MORE: Zemmour’s rise signals France’s thirst for anti-establishment candidates

Dr Smith also suggested that while NUPES did phenomenally well, the coalition of leftist parties is currently being held up by anti-Macron feeling.

When the alliance has to move forward on its own – perhaps out of opposition – fragmentation could occur.

Dr Smith said: “In fact, if we think of the Greek example, the rise of Syriza versus Pasok is exactly what we are seeing here. There are a lot of people on the broad French left, in the PS and among the Greens, who think that NUPES is something that it is not.

“This is not a pluralist, rainbow alliance and Mélenchon is not cuddly, warm, and special. NUPES itself could very quickly split into factions, though it is at least bound together by dislike, if not hatred of Macron.”

Macron may have technically won both the Presidential and legislative elections – but make no mistake, the rise of the far-left – and worryingly, the far-right – has dented his political ambitions for years to come.

Dr Paul Smith is an Associate Professor in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Nottingham. His areas of expertise include contemporary French politics and institutions.

Featured Image: ActuaLitté @Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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