Left and independentists advance in French elections

The population of the French state go to the polls for the fourth time this year in the second round of the legislative elections on Sunday 19 June.  While the right wing Macron won the Presidency again, this was against the far right challenger despite the strong showing of the left.  However in the parliamentary elections the left has organised better, into a new coalition known as NUPES (pronounced ‘noop’) led by Jean Luc Melenchon.  NUPES is putting up a strong challenge to the Macron Presidency and stands to be at least the main opposition, and possibly even the majority grouping in the National Assembly.

Of particular interest in Scotland will be the election campaign in France’s colonial possessions in South America and the Pacific.  In Guyane (French Guiana), the left and independentist movements had a strong showing in the first round in one of the constituencies with only candidates of the left going through to the next round in one of the two constituencies  and NUPES are challenging Macron’s candidate in the other (see article on Guyane here – in French at present, we will try to get English language updates shortly).  In Kanaky in the Pacific, the independentist forces of the FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) have succeeded in being the challenger to Macron in the second round.

ecosocialist.scot is pleased to republish two articles explaining the latest situation – one by fellow Fourth Internationalist Dave Kellaway, originally published on the website of Anti*Capitalist Resistance (a new revolutionary organisation in England and Wales), and the other an article on the Kanak elections originally published by L’Anticapitaliste and translated by International Viewpoint.

Setback for macron in ‘third round’ of french elections

Dave Kellaway reports on the first round of the French parliamentary elections.

14 Jun 2022

Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, the same politician who blamed the Liverpool fans for the debacle of the Champions league final a few weeks ago, did his best to massage the election results. He tried to define some left candidates as not really being part of the left coalition so that the overall vote for the coalition was reduced. Respected news outlets like Le Monde did not stand for it and declared the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES) the winners by a small margin. No wonder Darmanin was trying to fiddle the figures; this is the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic that a recently elected president has failed to come first in the parliamentary elections that immediately follow the Presidential race.

The margin of victory for the coalition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon was around half a percentage point. NUPES scored 26% followed by Macron’s Ensemble on 25% and Le Pen’s far right National Rally (RN) came in at just under 20%. French politics is still currently structured around these three political blocs. The traditional conservative party which came out of the Gaullist tradition, the Republicans (LR), got 11%.

Notable successes for the left included the election of Danièle Obono, a black woman leader of the LFI who had received much abuse from the right and the first place of Stéphane Ravacley, a left wing baker who did a successful 11 day hunger strike to stop his 18 year old Guinean apprentice being deported. He beat Macron’s candidate.

Since it is a first past the post electoral system over two rounds, the popular vote will not translate into the same proportion of seats. At the moment NUPES is projected to get between 150 and 190 seats whereas Ensemble is predicted to get between 255 and 295. A working majority is 289 so at the moment it is likely, but not certain, that Macron will just about do that. Of course Macron could govern without 289 seats by doing deals with the other blocs, particularly the LR, but it would make it more difficult to get controversial legislation through like increasing the retirement age.

The limits of Macron’s popularity were seen in the elimination of the former hated Minister of Education, Blanquer, in the first round.

The limits of Macron’s popularity were seen in the elimination of the former hated Minister of Education, Blanquer, in the first round. His attacks on teachers have received their just desserts. Macron has still failed to create a solid political base. His success has always been based on skilful manoeuvring, taking advantage of the crisis and decline of the mainstream left and right of centre parties. At the same time the rise of the hard right and fascists allow him to present himself as the safe alternative to the extreme right. Today he is trying to extend the notion of bullwark against extremes by red baiting Mélenchon. His ministers keep talking about a French Chávez or a risk to the French role in the European Union.

Despite the good showing of the left, particularly compared to 2017 when there was no unity among the left and ecologists, the slogan put forward by the France Unbowed (La France Insoumise – LFI) of ‘Mélenchon Prime Minister!’ will not become reality. It will be the main opposition bloc in parliament and its political centre of gravity will be more radical that the previous social liberal Socialist Party. The LFI will have the biggest number of MPs within the left/ecologist alliance. On paper the LFI has an even more radical left social democratic programme than Corbyn’s.

Only 47% of the French electorate bothered to vote, a new low for these elections. This expresses a real disgust at and alienation from the political system. It also shows both the difficulty and opportunity for the left coalition. Even before the first round, the left recognised that one way of completely blocking Macron was to convince the abstainers to vote for progressive reform. Current projections of seats could change significantly if there were to be a big mobilisation and a cut in the rate of abstention. Mélenchon made his post election speech centre on the nation of ‘deferlement’ – general mobilisation for the second round.

Only 47% of the French electorate bothered to vote, a new low for these elections. This expresses a real disgust at and alienation from the political system.

Although the NUPES are through to the second round in over 300 seats, there is a much smaller stock of potential votes from those parties which did not make it through. NUPES already regrouped the whole of the left except for candidates of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), which always rejected the coalition, and the few supported by the NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party), which generally voted for NUPES except where social liberal PS candidates were standing. These currents only got about 1.4% of the vote and so will not weigh heavily.

On the other hand, Macron can expect to pick up a good part of the LR vote whether its candidates are standing against NUPES or the hard right RN. Where NUPES are running off against the RN the LR vote is more likely to go to the hard right. Leaders of Macron’s coalition have been much more ambivalent about supporting NUPES candidates against the RN as a ‘republican duty’. Some have come out clearly for a NUPES vote while others say that it has to be on a case by case basis since some NUPES candidates do not share ‘republican values’. Of course, Macron was happy to bleat on about solidarity with republican values when he relied on left voters voting for him in the second round of the presidential elections in order to defeat Le Pen.

The near 20% for Le Pen is much better than in 2017 and is a success for her reactionary current. It will help to further embed her hard right politics in the political institutions. This time she is more confident about getting the 15 seats needed to have an official parliamentary group which confers definite advantages. It will further change the relationship of forces between her current and the mainstream rightwing. Her absolute refusal to make any agreement with the pro-Vichy, fascist Éric Zemmour has paid off politically. He even failed to make the second round in a constituency where he had done well in the presidential elections. It looks like he is very much a busted flush – a balloon pumped up by the media in the preliminary phase of the presidential elections. Le Pen’s continued threat to the left is her popularity among some working class communities.

Any weakening of the dominant class enemy is always helpful to working people’s struggle to defend their gains and build a fairer society.

Any weakening of the dominant class enemy is always helpful to working people’s struggle to defend their gains and build a fairer society. Macron has to get his reforms through parliament and therefore a working majority is important. It is a practical motivation for people to vote left in the second round. Even if, as likely, NUPES fails to block Macron in parliament, the fact of having around 100 MPs on a radical left position could well help any mobilisations. The social liberal PS will not be the leadership of the left.

The anti-capitalist and revolutionary left will be doing their best to mobilise for the second round but will also be calling on NUPES to develop the struggles outside parliament. If you cannot stop reactionary bills going through parliament, you have do it by mobilising forces on the streets. In recent decades, France has seen various neo-liberal reforms, including by Macron, stopped by mass demonstrations and strikes. Progress in the unity of the left and greens can give confidence to such movements.

Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

Originally published here: https://anticapitalistresistance.org/setback-for-macron-in-third-round-of-french-elections/


Kanak independentists present common candidates for legislative elections


The French elections also concerned the French overseas départements and collectivities such as Kanaky (New Caledonia) in the south-west Pacific Ocean. The results of the vote on 12 June showed that the independendist forces grouped under the FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) banner had achieved their first goal – to be present in the second round, despite the very low turn out of barely one-third of registered voters. The archipelago is divided into two constituencies, in both cases the run off is between the candidate of Macron’s grouping (Union loyaliste-Ensemble) and the FLNKS candidate.

At a press conference on Tuesday 17 May at Karigou in the town of Dumbéa, the Kanak independence movement announced the names of its candidates for the June 2022 legislative elections. Grouped around Wasissi Konyi, representative of the Palika in the political bureau of the FLNKS, the independentist candidates presented themselves, along with their alternates. Why were they standing? What were their goals?

“The independence movement must be represented in the National Assembly, it must be in the negotiations with the French government when they start. The independentists will ask for bilateral discussions,” announced the spokesperson for the Front. Following the last two congresses, that of the FLNKS and the popular congress, on 7 and 8 May at the N’Dé tribe, the independentist, progressive and nationalist forces made this commitment, and they reaffirmed that “the Nouméa Accord is a process of decolonization, the country is on the road to emancipation” . “The goal is to get into the second round, it is completely achievable,” indicated the FLNKS spokesperson, before the candidates took the floor to introduce themselves and explain their participation in these national elections.

“In the National Assembly, our independence movement is not represented”

In the first constituency (Nouméa, Îles-des-Pins, Loyalty Islands): Wali Wahetra, representative of Palika in the Province of the Islands at the congress, originally from Drehu, has been a teacher for thirty years. In the Congress, she is the Vice-Chair of the Education and Culture Committee. “It’s a huge responsibility. The independence movement has chosen us to be ambassadors”. During her speech, she recalled the five positions on which the Front and its allies agreed: “Challenging the political legitimacy of the last referendum consultation; the accession of New Caledonia to its full and entire sovereignty by the transfer of the last remaining powers; the non-negotiable maintenance of the achievements of the Nouméa Accord, which is guaranteed by the principle of irreversibility; maintaining New Caledonia on the list of countries to be decolonized; a categorical refusal to choose a new status within the French Republic. The bilateral format was recorded at the N’Dé congresses,” she said. “The first constituency is represented by Nouméa, Île-des-Pins and the Loyalty Islands. The delimitation of boundaries (decided by the then Minister of the Interior Charles Pasqua in 1986) is totally iniquitous and unjust. We want to call on the solidarity of the New Caledonian people, if they have the values of democracy at heart. In the National Assembly, our independence movement is not represented. We would like to go there to have our own say. The last Kanak deputy who went to the Assembly was Rock Pidjot in 1986 and since then the independentists have never been able to be elected because of these boundaries. This is partisan and completely unfair. It is a colonial attitude of the French state…”

“We must tell the ordinary Caledonian that they must no longer be afraid”

Her alternate is Jean-Fidéli Malalua, fourth Vice President of the USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers). He has been active in the trade-union movement for fifteen years. He says he is “battle-hardened from politics and especially from social questions” . He is of Futunian origin, he was born in La Foa in 1973. “I have taken up a cause that corresponds to my convictions, it is the struggle of the Kanak people. I’m not hiding from you that it’s not easy” . Questions might arise. “Why go to the National Assembly if you are asking for independence? Why participate in these elections? It is precisely the opportunity to go there to give a certain tone to the vision of the country and to give our point of view to the elected members of the National Assembly, but especially to Caledonians of all ethnic groups. As a non-Kanak and especially one of our generation. This country is viable together. We have to tell the average Caledonian that they don’t have to be afraid anymore. We need respect from the Caledonian voters … In the word independence, there are clichés that scare people… In Kanak and Oceanian culture, the search for consensus means that we have to discuss anyway…,” he explained, saying that the politics of fear would lead nowhere. “The mosaic of communities gathered around an independence project is not exclusive. It is a common project and of general interest,” he concluded.

“We are proud to be in this fight”

In the second constituency (the municipalities of Grand-Nouméa and the rest of the territory), the candidate is Gérard Reignier, former head of the Union Calédonienne and the FLNKS. “What we want is to have a representation in the National Assembly to make heard the voice of independentists and nationalists, of those who want this country to become a nation with all its populations in a common destiny”. “The load is heavy but the combat is beautiful,” he said. “We are proud to be in this fight. We hope to win and bring back some truth to the National Assembly… We have the duty to inform the French political class, but also French public opinion, which is in favour of the full sovereignty of our country. The words liberty, equality, fraternity should not be besmirched. Perhaps France will be less beautiful without New Caledonia, but certainly if the French state, along with the independentists, allows this country to access its full sovereignty, France will be greater,” he added.

His alternate, Marie-Pierre Goyetche, was president of the USTKE from April 2012 to December 2015. Currently, she is vice-president of the honorary college of the Trade Union Organization and vice-president of the Labour Party. A teacher by training, she got involved very early in the trade union struggle. This trade union commitment will enable her to make the link with the field of politics. She was elected to a municipal council, to the southern province and to the congress. “I am mixed-race, I am proud of my New Caledonian family who arrived through prison. [1] And I am proud of my Kanak culture in which I was brought up” . She wanted to send this message to the government: “It is out of the question to touch the composition of the electorate, that is the reason for our commitment to these legislative elections.”

[1] New Caledonia was a French penal colony from 1864 to 1987. Prisoners sent included those convicted for participation in the Paris Commune ,notably Louise Michel.


Published on the USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers) website and in the weekly Anticapitaliste , issue 619, 9/06/22.  Reproduced from: https://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article7704=