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Left-wing populist party La France Insoumise (LFI) is pushing for an unprecedented left-wing alliance with the Communists, Greens and centre-left Parti Socialiste ahead of parliamentary elections in June. Expert Jean Quatremer said LFI, which dominates the left, is a Europhobic party that is “allergic” to a Franco-German alliance.
His comment comes as Jean-Luc Melenchon, now leading the left after his third-place showing in the presidential race, seeks to lure left-leaning voters who voted for Emmanuel Macron over to his camp.
According to Mr Quatremer, while LFI does not support Frexit or abandoning the euro, it is moving in that direction.
Mr Melenchon’s programme includes France no longer sticking to EU budget and competition rules as well as a rejection of the free movement of capital.
In common with the far-right party National Rally, LFI would also seek to challenge the superiority of EU over French law.
French left wing parties are negotiating an alliance
La France Insoumise member of parliament Jean-Luc Melenchon
Mr Quatremer, writing in French daily Libération, said: “Obviously, this ‘European disobedience’ is legally impossible: not applying the treaties means exposing oneself to sanctions, fines and suspension of European aid.
“But nothing can force a country to respect European law if it doesn’t want to.
“In practice, the Community institutions will gradually be paralysed and the EU emptied of its substance.”
Negotiations are already under way between La France Insoumise and the Greens over a possible alliance.
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Yannick Jadot is leader of the French Greens
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But Green candidate, Yannick Jadot, warned on Tuesday, April 26, it would be the end of the EU if member states were to cherry pick from the bloc’s agreements.
He tweeted: “I am not in favour of a ‘Europe à la carte’ system. Disobeying Europe is not an option.”
LFI MEP Manon Aubry, who co-chairs the European Parliament’s Left Group, said on Twitter: “The words of Yannick Jadot undermine our serious work in the negotiations with [the Greens]: there is already a common path discussed on European disobedience.
“Let’s be up to the task of building a strong people’s bloc and responding to voters’ aspirations!”
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In a second tweet, she said that the bloc made up of LFI, the Greens, Socialists, Communists and the New Anticapitalist Party has 36 percent of the vote – ahead of rival political groupings.
Leader of the Greens, Julien Bayou, told Libération an alliance could not be made with a “hegemonic will”.
LFI pointed to three points of disagreement in the negotiations: disobedience towards European treaties, retirement at 60 and fuel prices.
Mr Quatremer explained that if LFI’s talks succeed, it would signal the end of the pro-European and liberal left, which is the only one that has managed to come to power.
LFI deputy Manon Aubry
There is also resistance from some within the Socialists’ fractured ranks.
Some argue they stand to lose more at municipal and departmental level if Mr Melenchon were to be anointed the left’s flag-bearer.
France’s two-tier political system makes the parliamentary elections almost as critical as the choice of president.
While the president sets the country’s general direction, the parliamentary vote determines the make-up of the government.
It can even force the president into an awkward coalition with a prime minister from a rival faction.
So far the numbers favour Mr Macron and his allies with a Harris Interactive poll this week showing they should secure a majority as long as he can strike a centre-right alliance with parties.
However, Mr Melenchon could scupper Mr Macron’s chances if he can pull France’s disparate left-wing forces under a single banner.
Mr Melenchon’s policies may still be too hard-line for some left-leaners.
His programme would reinstate wealth taxes, cap inheritances, limit companies’ rights to pay dividends or lay off workers and review France’s role in NATO, as well as the EU.
Some of Mr Macron’s plans are unpalatable with the left, including the raising of the retirement age and tightening rules on jobless benefits.
Marianne Batteux, 20, a politics student at Lille University who voted for Mr Melenchon in the first round before switching to Mr Macron in the run-off to block Marine Le Pen, said: “I don’t know who I’ll be voting for (in June), but it will be the left for sure.”
“Melenchon occupies a big place in French politics. My sense is that he does have the ability to bring people in.”
With additional reporting by Maria Ortega.