Discussions on a possible coalition between the two left-wing candidates for France’s presidential election appear to have broken down. Their fundamentally different views on the future of Europe make any partnership unworkable. EURACTIV France reports.
Despite signs of rapprochement between the Socialist Benoît Hamon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in recent weeks, hopes of a political partnership between the two look increasingly fragile.
Hamon, a former education minister under François Hollande, and veteran leftist MEP Mélenchon, are neck and neck in the polls, each with the support of roughly 13% of the French electorate.
As things stand, neither of the two candidates would make it to the second round of the election to face off against one of the three front-runners Marine Le Pen (28%), François Fillon (21%) or Emmanuel Macron (18.5%), who has just formed an alliance with centrist François Bayrou.
But in an article entitled Chronical of a missed opportunity! published on his website yesterday (22 February) Mélenchon laid out the disagreements that have divided his party, ‘Unsubmissive France’, and the Socialist Party in recent weeks. He explained that some of these divergences were irreconcilable and that he and Hamon were “separated” over certain issues.
However, he left the door open to future cooperation, signing off with, “I look forward to discussing the response over a coffee.”
The question of Europe constituted one of the unbridgeable divides between the two candidates. In another page of his blog, published on the same day, the MEP expressed his disagreement with Hamon’s plan to create a eurozone assembly; an idea he sees as a rehash of one of Hollande’s failed projects.
For Mélenchon, the EU is a sinking ship that France would do better to abandon. In his manifesto, he proposes a series of reforms aimed at completely overhauling the European project. Once negotiated, he would then hold a referendum, giving French voters the choice to “accept the reformed terms of EU membership or leave the Union”.
Should the negotiations fail, the far-left candidate has a Plan B. This plan, which includes the suspension of France’s EU budget contributions, the evolution of the euro towards a “shared” currency, rather than a “single” currency, and the end of the single market and the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, would amount to Frexit in all but name.
Hamon pursues integration
While Mélenchon looks ready to throw in the towel on the European project, Hamon is calling for closer integration on certain subjects, like social rights.
In his manifesto, the Socialist candidate promises “a process of social convergence with a national minimum wage set at 60% of each country’s average wage”, as well as a revision of the Posted Workers Directive, which is already being examined in Brussels.
Hamon also calls for convergence on corporate tax and the creation of a “European tax on tech giants (GAFA) and multinationals to boost the EU budget”.
Europe’s budgetary rules, which both candidates have targeted in their election campaigns, are another area of divergence. Hamon supports the suspension of the Stability and Growth Pact until such a time as it can be acceptably reformed. The Socialist candidate also wants to exclude investment spending from deficit calculations. Mélenchon, on the other hand, wants to end austerity by dropping the treaties altogether.
The one thing they fully agree on is their complete rejection of the EU’s free trade policy. Both Hamon and Mélenchon fiercely oppose the recent agreement with Canada (CETA) and the one under negotiation with the United States (TTIP).