Clock ticking as French left mulls coalition deal to humble Macron

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The fractured French left – buoyed by strong polling by veteran progressive Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidentials – was this week clambering to agree a coalition deal that would unite the Greens, Socialists and Communists under a common banner with the far-left France Unbowed party (LFI) in time for legislative elections in June.

LFI boss Mélenchon has already appealed to voters to “elect him prime minister" in the parliamentary polls after he was narrowly pipped to the post by Marine Le Pen for a spot in the presidential run-off. As one campaign ended, another quickly began.

The 70-year-old is now seeking to line up an "intergroup" of left-wing allies in the National Assembly that would allow him to force a power-sharing “cohabitation” government with President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

With nearly 22 percent of the first round vote, Mélenchon feels he’s in a strong position to build a so-called “New Popular Union” around himself and LFI.

So what alliances will the far-left kingmaker be able to forge with parties that declined to join forces with him in the presidential polls?

Conditions

As it courts potential allies, LFI – which is certain to build handsomely on its 17 National Assembly lawmakers – has laid out conditions for any future partnerships. Its main policies of lowering the retirement age to 60 years, raising the minimum wage, price freezes and the ushering in of a “Sixth Republic” are not negotiable.

LFI also wants its own candidates to be allowed to run in the number of constituencies that is proportional to its vote share in the presidentials. Then there’s a tricky question of how bound the coalition would be to European treaties.

A handful of those are at odds with Mélenchon’s policy platform, which he says he wants to implement even if it means breaking EU rules.

European MP Yannick Jadot, who came sixth in the presidentials on the Europe-Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) greens party ticket, wants France to move towards more European integration.

Unnamed EELV sources told BMFTV that Mélenchon’s demands were too great and risked “erasing” the platforms of other leftist parties altogether.

Jadot himself told France Inter radio on Tuesday that he was broadly in favour of a left-wing coalition, but not with Mélenchon as its leader.

"We have such a responsibility on the climate," he said – adding the left needed a “very open" coalition that respected "the diversity and identity of its partners”.

EELV’s own internal divisions – notably between Jadot and the party's national secretary Julien Bayou – may also prove a stumbling block to any future alliance.

The latter has conceded that time is running out and “the dice must be thrown this week” on the matter.

Other players

Meanwhile LFI is to meet with Socialist Party officials on Wednesday. Despite the paltry 1.75 percent of the vote managed by presidential hopeful Anne Hidalgo, the Socialists still enjoy a well-established local power base, with 28 lawmakers in the National Assembly.

A representative of the Communist Party (PCF) told BFMTV that the “disrespectful” number of constituencies offered to them meant the jury was still out on their involvement in a possible coalition.

"There is still too much uncertainty to say whether the Communists will accept this agreement or slam the door," the PCF member said.

Elsewhere, LFI is also in talks with the New Anti-Capitalist Party, which has responded favourably and has been openly pushing LFI’s notion that the June polls represent a "third round” of the presidential contest.

All 577 deputy seats in the lower house will be up for grabs on 12 and 19 June, with LREM likely to meet stiff resistance. The centre-right Macron, whose party has 267 seats, will begin his second term on 13 May.

The legislative vote will be key to determining the shape of France’s new government, and how much of Macron’s agenda he’ll be able to push through parliament.

When Macron beat Le Pen to win the presidency on Sunday, two independent polls found that two-thirds of French people do not want to give LREM a parliament majority for the next five years.

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