By Charlie Kimber
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French elections—neoliberal Macron loses parliamentary majority

Jean-Luc Melenchon’s left wing coalition Nupes will be the main opposition, but fascists' seat tally at a new record
Issue 2810
A group of people campaigning for Nupes candidate Rachel Keke in the French election

Campaigning for Nupes candidate Rachel Keke (centre in black top) (Picture: @LayanJulien on Twitter)

France’s neoliberal president Emmanuel Macron took a shattering blow in Sunday’s elections as he was projected to lose his majority in parliament by a big margin. Needing 289 seats, he won just 245.

Five years ago Macron’s party and its allies had 356 seats. The decline is a damning verdict on his failures during the pandemic, his rule for the rich and his savage assaults on the Yellow Vests. It’s also payback for his lack of action over the cost of living crisis. Macron’s top two lieutenants in the parliament both lost.

Jean-Luc Melenchon’s New Popular Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) took 131 seats, and will be the main opposition. It is fewer than some had hoped, but still an advance. Notable victories included Rachel Keke, a hotel cleaner and leading figure in the Ibis hotel strike in Batignolles.

“We are the ones who live in deprived areas and do key jobs,” she said. “We are the ones who are held in contempt and are exploited. So let us defend ourselves in parliament.” Keke defeated Macron’s former sports minister Roxana Maracineanu in a constituency in the suburbs of Paris.

Nupes’ manifesto called for lowering the retirement age to 60 and freezing the prices of essential goods. It promised investing “massively” in renewable energy and reintroducing a wealth tax that Macron removed. Its success is a very welcome sign of the enthusiasm for a left alternative.

But it wasn’t all good news. The fascist Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party (RN) grabbed 88 seats. That is up from eight in 2017 and smashed its previous high of 35 seats. That was back in 1986 under Jean Marie Le Pen when there was a much more proportional system. The fascists are a continuing danger who have gained from Macron’s racism and Islamophobia. nd they have falsely claimed to be on the side of ordinary people as prices soar and living standards plummet.

It’s more urgent than ever to strengthen united front activity against them. This cannot be postponed or forgotten because Nupes did well.

The fascists’ parliamentary score goes—1997 0ne seat, 2002 0 seats, 2012 0 seats, 2012 one seat, 2018 eight seats, 2022 89 seats. The RN has become the focus for many voters who used to vote for more mainstream parties. And it has been so normalised by other parties’ racism that it is viewed as just part of the normal political spectrum. 

All of these figures have to be set against a turnout of just 46 percent. More than half of potential voters are so disillusioned by the system that they didn’t vote, even in a very high-profile parliamentary election.

Stripped of a majority in parliament, Macron will rely on his allies to the right. That will include the traditional conservatives—with 64 seats—and even the fascists in some parliamentary votes.

In the run-up to the vote, Macron tried to witch hunt Nupes as dangerous and anti-democratic. It wasn’t so long ago that Macron and his allies were busy embracing Melenchon’s supporters. They needed their votes to defeat Le Pen in the April presidential run-off. 

Bus, as the France24 channel says, “Two months on, the ruling party has singled out the veteran leftist and his fledgling coalition as the new threat to the Republic. In the words of Macron’s former education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, Nupes is an extreme ‘just as dangerous as Le Pen’s far right’.” This desperate slur didn’t work, but it helped Le Pen.

In runoffs for seats that were head-to-head competition between Nupes and  the RN, 72 percent of Macron’s first round voters abstained, 16 percent voted Nupes, 12 percent RN. First round conservative voters went 30 percent for the RN, 12 percent for Nupes.

Nupes is made up of five parties including Melenchon’s France Unbowed (LFI) and the Labour-type Socialist Party, the Communists and the Greens.

The combined vote for these forces a week ago was similar to 2017. But together they made a breakthrough—but at the price of involving more pro-business elements such as the Socialist Party. The French Greens are also far from radical.

To hold Nupes together, LFI dropped measures such as the establishment of a commission on police violence, a ban on redundancies in large companies and nationalisation of banks. But Nupes’ success gave a massive momentum to the left with vibrant campaigns between last week’s election and Sunday’s vote.

French politics is polarising and entering even more stormy times where the key battles will be in the streets and the workplaces. The key issue now is whether those who voted left—and those who abstained—can be mobilised to push back the bosses and the government assaults. An early test will come when Macron seeks to attack pensions.

After most of the results were in, Melenchon said, “My message tonight, once again, is a message of combat. A message to the younger generation, the one that most strongly wants to break with this world. You have a magnificent combat tool—Nupes.” But the battles against low pay, inequality, racism, fascism and for people’s rights have to be taken up outside the parliamentary institutions. Struggle from below, not electoral manoeuvres will determine the outcome.   

The “magnificent combat tool” is strikes and mass protests and politics that focus on them.

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