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Breton and Basque parties join united front against Le Pen despite controversy over Paris-imposed candidates  

15 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Marine le Pen (CC BY 3.0 NO). Picture by Marie-Lan Nguyen. Right, Emmanuel Macron. Picture by European Parliament (CC BY 2.0).

Luke James

Long considered the last bastion of resistance to the French far-right, the results of the European elections in Brittany “shocked” its president and were called “unprecedented” by newspaper Le Monde.

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) won 25% of the vote – six points below its state-wide average but seven points ahead of the second place social democrats and five times the vote it won at the last European elections.

Sunday’s results led President Macron to call snap parliamentary elections, setting off a scramble to form alliances broad enough to stop the far-right taking power.

The scale of the challenge has even brought together ardent autonomists with Jacobin centralists.

The Breton Democratic Union (UDB) and Basque Country Yes (EH Bai) are among almost 40 parties which have heeded the call for progressive forces to stand together under the banner of the New Popular Front.

‘Unprecedented’

“The situation that we face is unprecedented,” said a UDB statement. “The far-right is on the brink of power. We therefore have the duty to put forward a common, credible and genuine alternative.”

After seeing the National Rally win in the northern Basque Country on Sunday, EH Bai said it is the “only solution to effectively combat at the ballot box the effects of the ultra-liberal politics of Macron and the rise of the far-right.”

Their decisions were not a foregone conclusion. Neither party formed part of the NUPES coalition, the forerunner of the Popular Front which contested the 2022 French parliamentary elections.

Autonomist parties in Occitania, Alsace and Corsica will present their own candidates in the elections, the first round of which will take place on Sunday June 30.

And the largest party in the New Popular Front is France Unbowed, whose leader, Jean-Luc Melechon, has described himself as a Jacobin and has made controversial comments about Breton-language schooling.

The selection of candidates has done little to dispel concerns about the centralist nature of the project.

Moderation

Despite Brittany’s reputation for political moderation, the New Popular Front candidate in 19 of the 37 constituencies in Brittany will come from Melechon’s party.

The social democrats, which is the largest force in the Breton parliament, were allocated seven seats along with the Greens, while the Communists will provide the candidate in four.

Anne-Cécile Juillet, a journalist for Breton newspaper Le Télégramme, said the decision showed “how, from Paris, they don’t understand the Breton left.”

It is “four constituencies basically offered to the National Rally in Morbihan,” she warned.

It will also see the New Popular Front contest the Morbihan constituency of Paul Molac, the independent MP for who has led efforts to protect the Breton language in the French National Assembly.

The UDB said they will campaign for Molac in that constituency and last night accused the leading parties in the New Popular Front of ignoring the situation on the ground in Brittany.

“We understand now that what is important in Paris is to divide the seats and not to win,” said a spokesperson.

“This manifest misunderstanding of the electoral sociology in Brittany threatens to send fewer left-wing MPs to the National Assembly, further proof of the inefficiency of centralisation.”

Danger

But they added: “Given the danger of a fascist party coming to power, and the ambition of the eco-socialist programme, we will take our responsibility and support the Popular Front.”

An autonomist candidate has though been selected to represent the New Popular Front in one of the three constituencies in the northern Basque Country.

In what local media called a “surprise” decision, Peio Dufau of EH Bai will be the candidate in the constituency which includes Biarritz. In the 2022 parliamentary elections, he came third behind the candidates from the parties of Macron and Melenchon.

EH Bai and Picardie Debout are the only non-statewide parties to have been allocated a seat. The majority of the constituencies will be contested by candidates from France Unbowed (229), followed by the Socialists (175), the Greens (92), and the Communists (50).

Just a day after formally announcing the formation of the New Popular Front, the coalition yesterday launched its election manifesto which includes “20 acts of rupture” from the Macron government.

Its headline measures include a freeze on the cost of basic foods and energy, scrapping Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age to 64, and raising the minimum wage and pensions.

They would be part of five pieces of major legislation the Front has promised to bring forward within 100 days of taking power.

A poll published this week showed the New Popular Front is on course to win 28% in the first round, three points behind the National Rally but crucially 10 points ahead of Macron’s Renewal party.

That would mean that, in many constituencies, Macron’s supporters would swing behind the Front’s candidates in second round run-offs with the National Rally.

There has also been an attempt to join forces on the right. Éric Ciotti, president of the traditional centre-right Republicans, said he was in favour of an alliance with Le Pen’s party for the legislative elections, but was immediately removed from his position.

Today there will be almost 200 demonstrations against the far-right and in favour of the New Popular Front taking place in France.

Read more: How the Welsh flag has been hijacked by the far-right in Brittany


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Adrian
Adrian
1 month ago

I’m making no judgement on the merits of right or left; or leave & remain here (I voted to remain as it goes): this comment is politically ambivalent. Has anyone noticed how the ‘establishment’ thinks democracy’s a wonderful thing…right up until the moment they get a result they don’t like? Then democracy is apparently ‘under attack’ and needs to be defended. The various electorates in the EU have been given a free democratic vote, as were the UK electorate in 2016. In both cases, when the result didn’t suit the powers that be it’s apparently a sock, a travesty, and… Read more »

Ron Puma
Ron Puma
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian

I don’t think it’s just the establishment. Plenty of ordinary folk seem unable to accept devolution.

And on the 2016 vote, there is a legitimate complaint about what the vote actually approved.

I accepted we would be leaving the post-Maastricht political union but have never accepted the vote gave Johnson permission to leave the economic partnership which so many voted in favour of in 1975.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ron Puma

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