Home News France’s new left-wing Popular Front won a landslide victory in Sunday’s election....

France’s new left-wing Popular Front won a landslide victory in Sunday’s election. Who are they?

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President Emmanuel Macron Announcement of early elections Last month, two words began to trend on the Internet and in the media for the French National Assembly: Popular Front.

It refers to the left-wing alliance formed in the 1930s to resist the rise of fascism in Europe and at home. Now, some of France’s main left-wing parties have united to fight what they see as a new danger: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party, which is closer than ever to power.

The left-wing alliance calls itself the “New People’s Front”.

Socialist leader Olivier Faure recently said: “For the first time since Vichy, the far right is in danger of gaining the upper hand again in France.” Tell a large group of peoplereferring to the French government’s collaboration with the Nazi occupiers during World War II.

Macron decided to force elections for the National Assembly (lower house of parliament) after suffering a crushing defeat to Marine Le Pen’s party in last month’s European Parliament elections.

The left parties, which had been torn apart by personal and policy differences a few months earlier, have reunited. Although the new Popular Front was hastily formed, it Ranked second in the first round of votingThe Front trails the National Rally and its allies by just five percentage points, while Macron’s centrist Ennahda party and its allies are in third, but by a wider margin.

Since then, the New Popular Front has made it harder for the far right to govern. It has set up what is known in France as a “republican front” or “dam,” asking candidates in the three-way race to withdraw in order to reduce the chances of a National Rally victory in Sunday’s runoff. According to French media reports, more than 130 candidates from the New Popular Front have withdrawn, as have about 80 candidates from Macron’s party.

Newest Polls The strategy could work. The National Alliance is still expected to win the most seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, but it may now fall short of the 289 seats needed for an outright majority.

“Historically, when the far right is threatened, the left always unites,” said Rémi Lefebvre, a political science professor at the University of Lille. “This has been the case since the 1930s.”

But many in France are also afraid of leftists, not least because the largest party in the coalition, France Indomitable, is known for its inflammatory far-left politics. Some members have also been accused of anti-Semitism, especially Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a combative and divisive figure, a longtime left-wing leader and founder of the group France Indomitable.

“They want to be a dam against the national assembly. But what happens beyond that?” said Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist at Sciences Po in Paris. “They are asking people to boldly move into the unknown.”

The country was once strong under the leadership of a powerful socialist party.In recent years, the French left has become a splintered alliance A coalition government between four parties: the Communists, the Socialists, the Greens and France Inflexible. The coalition government was first formed in 2022 and is dominated by France Inflexible, led by Mélenchon.

According to other members of the group, Mélenchon, a three-time presidential candidate and former Trotskyist, has been marginalized in the new coalition and is in a non-leadership role.

Since the October 7 attack on Israel, Mr. Mélenchon has been unabashedly pro-Palestinian, refusing to call Hamas a terrorist organization and strongly condemning Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as “genocide.” A large demonstration against anti-Semitism, attended by two former French presidentsThis was a gathering of “Friends of the Unconditional Support of the Holocaust.”

Amid growing attacks and threats against French Jews, Mr Mélenchon has been repeatedly accused of fomenting anti-Semitism.

The alliance, already fraught with internal conflict, eventually broke apart.

The reunification process lasted four busy days and nights. “We stayed up all night,” said Pierre Jouvet, secretary general of the Socialist Party and one of the main negotiators. “It was a bit like what sailors do on a long voyage, we took a nap of half an hour or 40 minutes and drank a lot of coffee.”

While fear of the far right played a role in this political marriage, so did pragmatism. Given the trajectory of the far right, the left is likely to lose a lot of seats if it can’t unite, said Frederic Savage, a professor of political science at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

On the fifth day, they unveiled a thick platform filled with promises but also markedly compromised for a group that is fundamentally divided on everything from involvement in Ukraine and the war in Gaza to nuclear energy.

The New Popular Front is launching its election campaign The platform would increase France’s monthly minimum wage, lower the legal retirement age to 60 and freeze the prices of basic necessities such as food, energy and gas.. Rather than drastically cut immigration numbers, as the far right had promised, the coalition has pledged to make the asylum process more lenient and smoother.

The group will also push for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages, and “immediate recognition” of a Palestinian state. It also vowed to develop a government plan to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The New Popular Front had a chance to win, but that possibility has been reduced as many candidates have withdrawn.

Still, the left could secure enough votes to have influence, especially if a coalition government is formed.

The group hopes not only to push back the far right but to carry on some of the legacy of the original Popular Front, the true touchstone of the French left and, for many, the pinnacle of their abilities and their courage in standing up to fascism.

The original Popular Front was led by Léon Blum, who became France’s first socialist and Jewish prime minister in 1936. On his second day in office, he introduced a series of laws that radically changed the lives of French workers, including two weeks of paid vacation each year and a 40-hour work week.

This government lasted only two years. In 1943, under the Vichy collaborationist government, Mr. Blum was sent to Buchenwald and lived in a house outside the concentration camp.

“The Popular Front government didn’t last long,” said Jean Vigreux, a history professor at the University of Burgundy in Dijon who has written two books about the Popular Front, “but it changed lives.”

Macron, who was disgusted with the far left even before it defeated his party in last Sunday’s election, had a scathing response to the formation of the new Popular Front, saying Blum “will surely turn over in his grave”.

He considers the party to be “extreme left” because it includes France Indomitable, and says it poses as much of a threat to the French Republic as the far right. Many voters agree. The last two annual polls of French sentimentAn Ipsos-Sopra Steria poll, which is conducted annually, showed 57% of people considered the party a “threat to democracy”, a higher proportion than the National Alliance.

The New Popular Front has refused to name the leader who would become prime minister if it wins a majority or forms a coalition government. But many leaders in the coalition have adamantly said it would not be Mélenchon. However, he has refused to give up his qualifications and has repeatedly said he is “capable” of taking on the post.

The National Alliance is still expected to win the most seats, but resistance could prevent it from achieving a coveted outright majority.

Months of mutual insults between the left and the center may also confuse the public, causing some voters to abstain.

“It’s very difficult for voters to understand that they need to vote for someone who just a few days ago was described as abhorrent,” said Lefebvre, the political science professor.

National Rally president Jordan Bardra criticized the New Popular Front, calling its attempts to prevent the right from taking power undemocratic. “Do you think this is honor politics, to stop at any cost the movement that I lead that represents millions of French people?” he said in a television interview this week.

The leader of the New People’s Front denied the claim.

“This is not a rejection of democracy. This is a strong desire to prevent the far right from entering France,” Mr. Jouvé said, “because we believe that the far right and Jordan Bardra are dangerous for France.”

However, some analysts worry that if successful, the Republican Front will exacerbate the sense of abandonment described by many far-right supporters who feel Macron’s government has not listened to their concerns.

“That’s the downside of this,” said Ms. Bacharan, the political scientist. “All far-right voters hear is, ‘We have to stay out of power.’ ”

Ségolène Le Stradick Reporting from Paris

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