La France Insoumise wants to turn European elections into anti-Macron referendum

Melenchon on 9 April 2017

La France Insoumise, the left-wing party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, wants to turn the European elections into a referendum against French President Emmanuel Macron’s politics and the European project he represents. EURACTIV France reports.

The central issue of the forthcoming European elections will not be immigration, but a rejection of Macron’s politics. This is the promise of La France Insoumise’s campaign manager, Manuel Bompard, which sets the tone for its European election campaign.

Given that this will be the first vote since last year’s presidential election, the May 2019 European elections provide an opportunity for Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s “Insoumis” to attack Macron’s politics head-on.

“The European elections provide an opportunity to impose a major election setback on Macron, this is the idea we’re committing ourselves to,” Bompard explained at a press conference in Paris on Monday (1 October).

La France Insoumise’s reluctance to campaign on the issue of migration, which will nevertheless be central during the European elections, is largely explained by the differences the topic causes within the movement itself.

The latest example of this was the “Manifeste pour l’accueil des migrants” (“Manifesto for the reception of migrants”). Signed by 150 prominent personalities, including the La France Insoumise MP of Seine-Saint-Denis, Clémentine Autain, the text denounces the stigmatisation of migration as an ill of European society and calls for the dignified reception of migrants.

This message is at odds with the position of La France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who places greater emphasis on the need to combat the causes of immigration, a discourse which is largely supported by the far right at the European level.

Lost in confusion, Europe staggers towards elections

Two weeks after Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech in Strasbourg triggered kick-off debates in the European Parliament about the 2019 elections, the party of Emmanuel Macron – one of the most closely watched politicians in Europe – officially launches its campaign outside France in Berlin on Saturday (29 September).

In order to defuse the situation, Bompard said the manifesto’s message was broadly shared by La France Insoumise, while reiterating the need to examine the causes of migration. This position will hardly be heard when Europe has been split on migration between supporters of a policy of closing borders and those in favour of a more generous reception policy.

As a way of moving away from the thorny issue of migration, La France Insoumise is therefore focusing on the idea of a protest vote against Macron’s politics.

“Because inflicting a defeat on Macron also means inflicting a defeat on Europe as it stands today,” emphasised Bompard. As the self-declared leader of pro-Europeans, Macron also embodies the liberal Europe that La France Insoumise wants to campaign against.

The left-wing anti-liberal party’s agenda should therefore be based more on the major topics which they supported during the presidential election campaign. These included the need to change the European treaties, the fight against tax evasion and posted workers, etc.

Preparations

La France Insoumise has to finalise its lists for the European elections by 15 November. A first version was published in June but may be extended to political figures whose ideas are compatible with those of La France Insoumise.

Socialist MEP Emmanuel Maurel and former minister Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, who represent the left wing of the socialist party, appear to be potential candidates and discussions have been broadly taking place with the Insoumis.

The members will then be able to vote on the finalised lists before they are officially announced on 8 and 9 December, in parallel with the programme text for the elections.

European alliance on the horizon

Being isolated from its communist allies at the national level – with whom it had participated at the last European elections in 2014 – La France Insoumise has embarked on building a new European political force.

Having been thus far a member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left at the European Parliament alongside the French communists, La France Insoumise has launched a new gathering of the radical left together with Podemos (Spain), Bloco de Esquerda (Portugal), The Red-Green Alliance (Denmark), the Left Party (Sweden) and the Left Alliance (Finland).

The movement called “Maintenant le peuple” (“Now the people), which was founded in Lisbon on 12 April 2018, intends to free itself from the Party of the European Left, which brings together the majority of the national parties belonging to the political group.

“We can no longer share the same political space as Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza movement, which belongs to the European Left,” Bompard said.

Moreover, this incompatibility seems to be mutual since Gabriele Zimmer, chair of the left group (GUE/NGL) believed that Jean-Luc Mélenchon had created “problematic situations”, particularly by publicly calling for Syriza’s expulsion.

The new formation launched by La France Insoumise hopes to expand to other political parties by the election and even form its own group in the European Parliament. In order to do this, “Maintenant le peuple” will need 25 MEPs elected from at least a quarter of the member states (at least seven countries).

En Marche hits the campaign trail against the 'enemies of Europe'

President Emmanuel Macron’s party launched its campaign for the European elections, reflecting on a consultation about Europe involving 71,000 French people held in the spring. LREM wants to present itself as the only truly pro-European party. EURACTIV France reports.

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