Unsubmissive France: The ‘Mélenchon tsunami’ further complicates the reorganization of the left after the French presidential elections | International
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The party in the vicinity of the winter circus in Paris, the venue chosen by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the most successful left-wing candidate in Sunday’s elections, to follow the results of the first round, lasted longer than expected. Never before had a defeat been celebrated – for the third time in three presidential elections, the leader of Francia Insumisa failed to make it to the second round – with such joy. But never before, either, had the populist left been so close to qualifying (for a few hours it even seemed that Mélenchon would catch up with the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen) and, above all, never before had it left so far behind, practically in the irrelevance, to the other progressive parties with which in the last five years the leadership of the opposition from the left to President Emmanuel Macron has been disputed.
It should be a simple calculation: Mélenchon has obtained 21.9% of the votes, compared to 1.7% for the socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo, 2.3% for the communist Fabien Roussel and 4.5% for the environmentalist Yannick Jadot . Therefore, the leader of Francia Insumisa appears as the inescapable reference to reconfigure the dejected field of the French left, which for the second time in a row has failed to reach the presidential final and which, along the way, has left the old reference parties , especially the socialist, like a burned field.
But nothing is easy in a left in which the only party that has held power so far this century, the socialist, is on the verge of extinction and in which the other once hope, the ecologists, has also confirmed, once again, his inability to break a vote ceiling. Both formations, by not reaching 5% of the votes, will not even be able to recover what was spent in the campaign. The ecologists have already recognized that this is going to be a problem, as is the case with Fabien Roussel’s communists and, in the right-wing camp, with the Republicans.
If it were only a problem of egos —who should lead the left?—, as has been discussed over the last five years in the various and frustrated attempts to recompose the left, the electoral force that Mélenchonism has shown on this occasion should settle the question.
But the differences go beyond the figures, especially in view of the fact that Mélenchon had assured that this was his last campaign and that in the next presidential appointment he would be 75 years old. There are several candidates to succeed him, but none can be considered a safe designated dolphin and none, either, has the charisma of this seasoned politician, a socialist senator for decades before starting his own political journey further to the left.
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There is also a deep mistrust. Several high-ranking representatives of France Insumisa accused the socialist, environmentalist and communist leaders on Sunday (the PCF, which in 2017 concurred with Mélenchon, broke away on this occasion and presented its own candidate) of not having wanted to accept Mélenchon’s leadership. But the others also reproach the rebellious leader for not having been able to give a step (he did not even personally participate in the meetings last spring to try to find a common candidacy) or for having made real unifying efforts after being the first force for the first time on the left, in 2017. “Mélenchon missed the boat in 2017. He could have been the Mitterrand of the 2020s. He preferred to discard everyone,” the article quoted Journal du Dimanche Socialist Senator Jean-Marc Todeschini on Sunday. Five years ago also, the environmentalist Jadot, also assured that “Mélenchon has the same objective as Macron, to kill everything that exists on the left between them”.
Above all, there is a fundamental problem, of principles, which seems more difficult to overcome, especially in matters of foreign policy. The questioning by France Insumisa —the party closest to Spain’s Podemos— to the European Union, whose treaties it wants to review, as well as NATO, from which it proposes leaving even after the start of the war in Ukraine, are lines red for other more moderate formations on the left, especially some socialists and environmentalists who strongly defend Europeanism. While Hidalgo and Jadot also immediately called for a vote for Macron to stop Le Pen, Mélenchon repeated up to three times in his speech that “you must not give a single vote” to the extreme right. But he did not ask for the vote for the outgoing president.
In the Parisian restaurant where the Socialist Party (PS) heard what many consider its death sentence, the militants quickly called to get down to work to rebuild the left. First phase: the legislative elections in June, where they will seek to join forces so as not to remain inoperative for five more years before an overwhelming macronist majority. Contacts had already begun, assured several senior socialist officials, with the communists and environmentalists with whom the PS achieved important results in the 2021 regional elections, it shows, they say, that the alliance of the left is possible and can govern.
What was missing from the list of all those responsible was to mention France Insoumise. Nor is he mentioned in the joint statement that the first secretary of the PS, Olivier Faure, and key figures in the future of socialism (or whatever it is called after the necessary refoundation after this latest debacle) such as Carole Delga or Johanna Rolland issued after the defeat of Hidalgo calling for a “union of the left and environmentalists.”
Not everyone seems to agree. The former first secretary of the PS, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, called on his colleagues on Monday to “wake up” and stop thinking of the legislative elections as “a revenge against France Insumisa”. The rebellious deputy Clémentine Autin, meanwhile, also recalled this Monday the “long months during which the other candidates [de izquierda] They have spent a lot of time talking bad about Mélenchon, even with lies. Reconciliation still seems difficult.
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