Traditional ruling parties fight for survival in French elections

The aftermath of Emmanuel Macron’s re-election has turned into a struggle for the survival of the once-powerful political movements that gave France most of its post-war presidents.

The centre-left Socialist Party and the conservative Les Républicains (LR) party were crushed in this month’s presidential election. Now they risk being torn apart as politicians seek alliances to contest the June parliamentary elections.

Socialism itself was at stake, said Francois Hollande, the former socialist president, as he on Thursday rejected a proposal to include his party as a junior partner in a “popular union” dominated by the party of extreme left La France Insoumise. by Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Mélenchon, 70, has emerged as the leader of one of three supposed political alliances that are set to dominate National Assembly elections in six weeks, after winning just 22% of the vote in the first round of presidential elections. behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen with 23 and Macron with 28.

Hollande said a lopsided left-green alliance controlled by the eurosceptic and anti-capitalist Mélenchon would challenge socialist commitments to the EU and NATO and to a viable economy.

“It calls into question the very history of socialism,” he told Franceinfo radio. “We have to negotiate, but we can’t just disappear.”

There has been a similar sense of alarm among LR Gaullists, as moderate members consider joining Macron’s embryonic centrist alliance for the National Assembly elections, while its right-wing members consider defecting. at the Le Pen National Rally.

LR leader Christian Jacob has insisted that the party must remain independent and that its members, including parliamentarians, must remain in place.

“We are preparing for the legislative elections, without being involved in penism or macronism,” he told Le Figaro in an interview.

Francois-Xavier Bellamy, a philosophy professor and LR member of the European Parliament, said potential defectors were “noisy but few in number” and that an alliance with Macron would be “very dangerous for the right and for democracy in general”. The party “should remain independent and be in opposition” to uphold its traditional themes of fiscal prudence and public order, he added in an interview.

The problem, for both the LRs and the Socialists, is that their candidates – Valérie Pécresse, who leads the Ile-de-France region which includes Paris, and Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris – have done so poorly in the presidential election that they failed to meet the 5% threshold required for the state to pay a substantial share of its campaign expenses.

“The socialists and LR have the same problem. Alone, they have no chance of surviving – they have to mingle with other parties,” said Vincent Martigny, professor of political science at the University of Nice.

“We are really in the midst of a political realignment in France. The three main candidates for the presidential election are trying to form three blocs, but their composition remains to be determined.

A person involved in LR’s campaign said the party believed it could retain a significant number of its 101 assembly seats. “Our nightmare would end like the socialists, so we have to fight to avoid that fate,” the person said.

The number of Socialist seats fell from 280 to 30 in the 2017 parliamentary elections.

There are financial and political incentives for parties to field as many candidates as possible, even if they are unlikely to win, as public funding for the next five years will depend on the results. Any party running in more than 50 constituencies will receive funds based on the votes obtained in the first round, and for each MP elected, they will receive €37,000 per year.

While socialists, greens and communists are all wary of what Europe Ecology Les Verts national secretary Julien Bayou calls the threat of a “hegemonic” left-wing alliance under Mélenchon, and LR fights for surviving as a right-wing independent party, Macron gained momentum on his side after his victory over Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election.

Emmanuel Macron greets his supporters after his victory in the presidential election in Paris last Sunday. Photography: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

Yet even for Macron and his La République en Marche party, the legislative elections will not be as easy as after the start of his first presidential term in 2017. He was a newcomer then, and his party and his allies won the majority in the National Assembly. which allowed his government to make laws and implement economic reforms as it pleased.

An Elabe opinion poll revealed on Wednesday that 61% of French people thought it was best if there was a majority in the National Assembly that opposed him, with just 39% hoping for a parliament that would oppose him. favored – broadly opposed to the popular majority. see five years ago.

Macron is therefore trying to ensure that he can ensure control of the assembly during the two rounds of voting on June 12 and 19.

After shifting to the center-right with his tax cuts and the choice of his first two prime ministers – Édouard Philippe and outgoing President Jean Castex – Macron is courting the left and the greens while trying not to alienate the conservatives . He said his next prime minister – who is expected to be appointed next week – will be “someone who understands social and labor issues, environmental issues and economic issues”.

On the far right, unsuccessful presidential candidate Éric Zemmour pressured Le Pen’s party for an alliance to improve their chances of advancing an anti-immigration agenda in parliament, but met with resistance. Le Pen’s team has already said they will oppose Zemmour wherever he appears.

“We reached out because we want to influence the direction of the country, but it looks like they just want to kill us,” said a Zemmour strategist. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022

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