people speaking at press conference

Leaders of the Nouveau Front Populaire, a new alliance of left-of-center political parties, attend a press conference in Paris on June 14, 2024. The parties united to form an electoral coalition for the upcoming parliamentary election.

(Photo: Magali Cohen/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images)

In Snap Election, French Left Forms Alliance To Counter Far Right and Neoliberals

Leaders of the new alliance vowed to "extinguish the flame" of Marine Le Pen's far-right party and make a "total break" from President Emmanuel Macron's anti-worker policies.

France's left-of-center parties announced on Thursday a new alliance aimed at countering both the ultranationalism of Marine Le Pen and the neoliberalism of President Emmanuel Macron in parliamentary elections that Macron called unexpectedly on Sunday.

The new alliance, called the Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP), formed following days of intense negotiations as several parties, most notably the center-left Parti Socialiste (PS) and the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI), joined forces to put forth a common platform and avoid competing candidates in races for the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

NFP leaders said they wanted to create a bulwark against the Rassemblement National (RN), Le Pen's far-right party that is leading in the polls.

"We are going to extinguish the flame of the RN," said Marine Tondelier, the national secretary of Les Écologistes, one of the NFP parties, according toThe Associated Press. "It's either us or them."

The new alliance also announced a push for a "total break" from Macron's policies, such as raising the retirement age.

Calling the formation of the alliance "a considerable political event in France," Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of LFI, said in a statement: "This is such a positive new development!"

Mélenchon suggested that the alliance would surprise Macron, whose party, Renaissance, is often characterized by the media as centrist.

"We thwart the political calculations of Macron who counted on a disunited and isolated left to produce a new debate limited to...his party and the RN in each constituency," the LFI statement said.

The National Assembly is the directly elected body in France's parliament, with elections often held shortly after presidential elections, every five years. This snap parliamentary election comes without a coinciding presidential election; Macron is schedule to hold office until 2027. If a party other than Renaissance gains controls of parliament, Macron will be forced to choose a prime minister and cabinet appointments from that party's leadership—an arrangement called "cohabitation."

The far-right RN narrowly leads in the polls at 31% or more, with the new left alliance at 28% and Renaissance at just 18%.

Marine Le Pen has guided RN from Nazi origins and the racist rhetoric of her father, longtime party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, into more mainstream acceptance in recent years. She finished second in each of the past two presidential elections, narrowing the gap substantially in 2022 in gaining more than 41% of the vote.

RN's current candidate for prime minister is Le Pen's 28-year-old protégé Jordan Bardella, whom CNNdescribed as "clean-shaven" and charming, and who has helped lead the party's effort to gain establishment credibility. The center-right establishment has longed shunned Le Pen, but this week one of its leaders flirted with joining forces with the RN, causing an uproar.

Bardella led the RN's campaign in last week's European Union elections, in which RN gained 31% of the French seats, more than twice that of any other party.

The EU results led to Macron's immediate call for a new parliamentary election, the first round of which will be June 30, with runoffs on July 7.

The NFP, whose name comes from the Front Populaire anti-fascist alliance formed in 1936, came together in a hurry amid the chaotic week in French politics. Parties faced a time crunch, as they have to announce their parliamentary candidates by June 16.

NFP has not announced who its prime minister candidate will be. PS leaders have ruled out Mélenchon, whom they see as too far left and too divisive, in public interviews.

Mélenchon remains among the most powerful figures in the alliance, however. He narrowly missed the runoff in the 2022 presidential election, finishing third behind Macron and Le Pen. LFI has held 74 of the roughly 140 seats held by the left-of-center coalition in the outgoing National Assembly.

That coalition, which was the first the left had been able to form in decades, was seen as historic, and helped prevent Macron from gaining a majority in parliament—one reason he may not hesitated to call this snap election—but effectively dissolved last year amid infighting over Gaza and other issues. NFP is essentially a reformation of the 2022 coalition.

Center-left figures, eager to defend their alliance with left-wing parties, said the stakes of the election required it.

"Close your eyes and imagine" 300 RN parliamentarians and French ministries led by the far right, Raphaël Glucksmann, who led what was effectively a PS ticket to a modicum of success in the EU elections last week—the party gained seats after years of struggles—told Inter France, a radio network. It would be "effective and terrifying," he warned.

Some of the NFP's platform is aimed at undoing that which Macron, a former investment banker, has done. The group seeks to undo the president's pension reform that raised the retirement age to 64, reinstitute a wealth tax, and increase taxes on some industrial firms.

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