The Legislatives

16 April 2022

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is entitled to a little crowing. He outran his polls and improved his position slightly compared with 2017. But in negotiations with the Greens and Socialists over a possible accord in advance of the June legislative elections, he’s using his vote total as a bludgeon to insist that his party, La France Insoumise, be given a share of seats of the “united left” equal to his share of the combined left-wing vote. Since many who might have voted for the Greens, the Socialists, or the Communists chose for tactical reasons to support Mélenchon instead, this maneuver promises to skew the left-wing representation in the National Assembly well to the left of where the hypothetical median left voter stands.

Such a maneuver would make Mélenchon the often eloquent yet equally often hectoring, scowling, fulminating tribune of the left, alienating more moderate social democrats and making it more difficult for the left to attract voters from the orbits of Macron, Philippe, Pécresse, Bertrand, and other more centrist candidates. To propel Mélenchon into this role would not be to respond to the wishes of voters but to submit to the strong-arm tactics of a sectarian movement. Yet to reject Mélenchon’s demands would be to perpetuate the divisions that have rendered the left all but powerless since 2017. This is a real dilemma, and I am afraid it will be resolved by capitulation, since the Greens are very weak and the Socialists on the brink of death and hardly in a position to demand better terms.

Meanwhile, on the right, while Valérie Pécresse pleads for contributions to help erase her 5 million euro personal loan, the maneuvering, while less visible, is equally intense. Les Républicains aren’t quite dead in the water, but the circling sharks are roiling the seas around the still-quivering carcass. Édouard Philippe, who hopes to capitalize on the popularity he took with him when Macron fired him from his post as prime minister, has formed a “group” which he hopes will accompany him to the presidency in 2027. Xavier Bertrand, whom LR should have nominated instead of Pécresse, is nursing similar hopes but has yet to give them concrete form. Eric Ciotti, who finished second to Pécresse in the LR primary, is trying to figure out how to swing the tiller hard to the right without making himself a hapless appendage of Le Pen. And Laurent Wauquiez, still smarting from his disastrous run as party chieftain, is plotting his comeback.

LR has yet to take the full measure of its debacle. Sarko-nostalgics cannot help noticing that their hero, after refusing to say the slightest word in favor of Pécresse, quickly endorsed Macron on election night. Eric Woerth had already bolted to Macron weeks earlier. Jean-François Copé, Rachida Dati, and Bertrand offer a contrast with Macron in style but not in substance, and the party needs to find a way to differentiate itself from the center without dissolving itself in the more acidulous atmosphere of the hard right. The legislatives are probably too soon for a coherent line (or competing lines) to emerge, but it will be interesting to watch this space in the year ahead. The whole cast of characters enumerated above is now showing its age, and it remains to be seen what new talent will emerge.

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3 Comments

  • bernard says:

    A correction. Mélenchon and his party LFI have explicitly not invited the socialists to any negotiations and have stated that they will not in the future. Their offer has been directed to the Greens, the communist party and, yes, the NPA of Poutou fame. The socialist party and Faure, its leader, have pretended (some nerve on 1.78%…) to have something to negotiate with LFI which has essentially responded: after insulting us during the whole campaign, you can go to hell and you will.

    Still, the legislatives are very much up in the air for everyone as you basically say. The destruction of the two parties which used to produce large numbers of parliament members, leaving strong far left and far right parties, which did not produce large numbers of parliament members in recent decades, makes me suppose that a large centre coalition can emerge for the legislatives and produce a majority or a near majority for newly reelected President Macron. Should Le Pen be elected, which will definitely not happen in my humble political opinion, she most certainly would be very far from securing anything close to a parliamentary majority and would have to rethink the goverment that she has already formed in her mind (as they say, adieu veaux, vaches, cochons).

  • I have to object to this portrait of Melenchon. He has succeeded in doing a very difficult trick. To understand the trick, you have to understand the background. Nobody who voted for Melenchon wants another five years of Macron. Macron is often described as a center rightist. Actually, he is just a rightist. There’s a reason he was supported by Sarkozy. Like Thatcher, he tried to tear up the compact between the government and labor – labor had no say on the so called “reforms” (which should be called regressions, since they strip off earlier reforms) and his ministers were very explicit, when the CGT and the CFDT struck, that one of the goals was depoliticizing and disempowering the unions. He is a no-go for the left. Melenchon is never going to ask his voters to swallow Macron. But by changing the emphasis to the legislatives and proposing to co-habit with Macron, the Melenchon voters have something to gain by voting for Macron – since evidently Le Pen will never co-habit with Melenchon. Thus, Melenchon voters – and I am one – don’t have to go to the polls and feel like they are voting for the worst candidate possible save one, Le Pen. They can vote more optimistically, knowing that the campaign for the legislatives against Macron’s notoriously unorganized party – basically, goldbrickers who fled from both of the formerly dominant parties – provides a good opportunity to stop the Macron train.

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