Fragmentation of French left in European elections sharpens appetites

The French left risks racing the European elections “on miniature horses,” according to a French MP.

From Ségolène Royal to Benoît Hamon and citizens’ pressure groups, the ambitions of the French left are multiplying in the run-up to the May 2019 European elections, with the risk of cancelling each other out. EURACTIV France reports.

It’s an understatement to say that the French left is going into the European elections in a fragmented manner.

“We’re all dwarfs, we’re going to race with our miniature horses, and what’s more, people are happy,” complained a leading light of one of the parties in contention.

The French Socialist Party (PS), which gained 14% of votes at the 2014 European elections, may not be able to pass the 5% mark, which allows parties to have MEPs at the European Parliament. In other words, the socialists may see their delegation of 13 MEPs reduced to none.

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France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party has overtaken President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM in the latest poll of voting intentions ahead of the 2019 European Elections.

The party fragmented around the 2017 presidential campaign, where its candidate Benoît Hamon did not succeed in convincing the whole of the socialist family. After his defeat in the presidential elections, the unsuccessful candidate quickly broke away with his “Générations” movement, situated on the party’s left wing.

Other socialists on the party’s right wing have joined La République En Marche, the party of President Emmanuel Macron, himself a former socialist finance minister. In its centre, the new party secretary, Olivier Faure, has received criticism. Due to its lack of funds, the party has had to leave its historical stronghold nicknamed “Solfé”, on rue de Solférino, a majestic building a short distance from the Musée d’Orsay that it had occupied for 40 years.

“Nobody wants to go to the European elections because nobody wants to lead a dying party,” a French MP said.

With “Générations”, the MEPs Edouard Martin, Isabelle Thomas and Guillaume Balas have established a “sub-delegation” within the Socialist Party’s delegation so that it can recover funds and campaign under a distinct banner. At the moment, their movement is only credited with 3% of voting intentions.

Platforms for citizen reflection which lack a unifying party

The hard-left La France insoumise is starting this miniature horse race as the favourite. Currently, the polls indicate that Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s movement will gain 14% of the vote. However, this does not take into account the party’s internal divisions.

Former socialist MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc, who joined La France insoumise at the end of his mandate in 2014, recently distanced himself from Mélenchon, following the latter’s outbursts against the French justice system and the media. He has proposed establishing a left-wing platform for reflection ahead of the European elections.

This idea is also underway within the less radical left-wing. The philosopher Rapahël Glucksmann, the economist Thomas Porcher and NGO board chair Claire Nouvian have just launched “Place publique” [“Public place”] which does not (yet) aim to put together an electoral list.

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Among the Greens, candidates have already been agreed, with Yannick Jadot leading the list. However, the list is still a subject of debate. “On the one hand because discussions never stop with us, and on the other, because some contest that Karima Delli was only in 6th place,” said a source in the Greens.

The debate is becoming all the more tense given the most recent success of the Greens at the elections in Belgium and Germany, the demonstrations for the climate in France in recent weeks and the most recent Eurobarometers, which show citizens’ growing concern about the environment.

These factors tend to make the Greens central elements of the next European elections.

The Royal option

Faced with this fragmentation, Ségolène Royal, the former socialist candidate for the 2007 presidential elections, has expressed her interest in leading a list, an initiative which hasn’t raised much enthusiasm in the PS.

Currently acting as an Ambassador of the Arctic and Antarctic Poles, she would now consider a union list for the left around major issues, such as ecology, according to Le Monde. Some members of the PS would be in favour of this, others are less inclined. In any case, the situation remains open, given the lack of obvious candidates.

European left plans to take over the social democrats in EU elections

The Party of the European Left vows to be “the only alternative” to the conservatives and “the real alternative” to the far-right, according to a draft manifesto seen by EURACTIV.com; However, the fragmentation in the leftist family creates barriers.

Further Reading

Volt, the transnational party that aims to take over Europe

Volt, a transnational movement built by young Europeans, aims to take over the upcoming EU elections with a combination of a hyper-localised organisation under a common European vision. EURACTIV.com spoke to two of its founders. 

Will the centre hold the balance of power in a fragmented European Parliament?

The increasing contingent of centrist MEPs could put an end to the “grand coalition” approach between the right and the left at the European Parliament. EURACTIV France reports.

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