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Exploring the New Popular Front: Unexpected Victor of the French Election

The second position is held by the Socialist Party (PS), the mainstream center-left party associated with figures like François Mitterrand and François Hollande. Historically the largest party on the French left, it is social democratic and pro-European. However, it garnered less than 2% of the vote in the 2022 presidential election.

Founded in 1984, the French Green Party (LE-EELV) represents the latest incarnation of a movement that briefly entered government in 1997 as part of a left-wing coalition with the PS and Communists, during which time Dominique Voynet served as Minister of the Environment.

The French Communist Party (PCF), one of Europe’s oldest, was a dominant force on the postwar French left and held ministerial positions in Lionel Jospin’s PS-led government from 1997 to 2002. Although still advocating for the transcendence of capitalism, it has adopted a pragmatic approach.

What’s in the NFP’s agenda?

While all four parties have made compromises, the NFP’s agenda is heavily influenced by the radical-left La France Insoumise (LFI), including commitments that would significantly increase France’s already substantial public spending.

Their pledges include: reversing Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reforms to revert the retirement age back to 60 from 64; raising public sector wages and linking them to inflation; enhancing housing and youth benefits; reducing income tax and social security contributions for low earners; and introducing a wealth tax for the wealthy.

The NFP also aims to increase the minimum wage, fund 500,000 childcare places, cap prices on essential goods like food, electricity, gas, and petrol, promote green initiatives with a target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and reform the EU’s common agricultural policy.

In terms of foreign policy, the alliance has committed to demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, recognizing Palestine, opposing Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, continuing arms supplies to Kyiv, and steadfastly supporting Ukrainian sovereignty and freedom.

Why did the alliance perform so well?

Following the 2022 presidential election and preceding the subsequent parliamentary vote, the same four parties formed a similar coalition called the Nupes, which secured over 150 seats. This coalition collapsed due to personal conflicts and significant policy disagreements last year.

The NFP was hastily formed after President Macron dissolved parliament last month following his camp’s substantial defeat in the European elections, where the far-right National Rally (RN) garnered over 30% of the vote.

While many left-leaning French voters willingly supported NFP candidates, the alliance also benefited from the “republican front” that emerged after the first round of voting, which overwhelmingly opposed the RN. To avoid splitting the anti-RN vote in potential three-way runoffs, the NFP withdrew 132 candidates who were largely in third place. Additionally, more than 80 centrists supported NFP candidates, and many centrists and center-right voters shifted left to block the RN.

According to Ipsos, 54% of voters from Macron’s camp (Ensemble) and 29% from the center-right Les Républicains (LR) switched to NFP when the candidate was from the PS, Greens, or Communist Party. Fewer voters made the switch when the candidate was from the more radical LFI, although the numbers were still significant: 43% from Ensemble and 26% from LR.

Can the alliance maintain cohesion this time?

The previous Nupes coalition collapsed primarily due to Mélenchon’s dominant and confrontational personality, along with increasingly radical positions. There were also deep policy divisions over issues such as Ukraine and Gaza – LFI has refused to label Hamas as a terrorist organization – as well as attitudes towards the EU.

Although the abrasive LFI leader, aged 72, initially promised to take a less prominent role within the NFP, he has since insisted that the next French prime minister must come from the alliance and strictly implement “our manifesto, and only our manifesto” without a majority.

Mélenchon has even suggested he might consider the role himself. However, his volatile outbursts, attacks on opponents, anti-US stance, Euroscepticism, and previous pro-Russian remarks before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine have made him a polarizing figure. He has also faced accusations of antisemitism, recently characterizing participants in a protest against antisemitism as “friends of unconditional support for the [Gaza] massacre” and downplaying residual antisemitism in France. He denies these allegations.

Many NFP members are reportedly opposed to Mélenchon, and former LFI defectors who are now independent left-wing MPs, such as Clémentine Autain and François Ruffin, view him as an impediment to left-wing unity.

Which faction of the NFP might prevail and who could lead it? While LFI holds the largest faction within the NFP with 74 MPs, the other three parties collectively outnumber the radical-left party – PS with 59 deputies, Greens with 28, and Communists with nine. These parties may resist being overshadowed by LFI.

On Monday, Autain indicated that dissident LFI members might attempt to form a separate political group within the NFP, potentially aligning with the Communists and other independent left-wing MPs. This could further weaken LFI’s position within the coalition.

Socialist leader Olivier Faure stated that the NFP aims to nominate a candidate for prime minister by the middle of the week. Marine Tondelier, leader of the Greens, suggested the candidate could be from one of the four main parties or someone from outside politics.

“The best approach will be consensus, finding intelligent solutions collectively,” said Tondelier, one of the standout figures of the campaign. “If we want to govern, we must truly unite. Achieving this will not be easy without significant compromise.”

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