Home Europe France’s Hard-Left Firebrand Melenchon Is A Headache For Others On The Left

France’s Hard-Left Firebrand Melenchon Is A Headache For Others On The Left

A protester hold a French flag as people gather at the Place de la Republique after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, in Paris, France. REUTERS/Abdul Saboor

France’s hard-left firebrand Melenchon  is the leader whose party France Unbowed (LFI), won the most seats of the leftist alliance that scored a shock victory over the far right in Sunday’s snap legislative election.

His party’s top position gives him a credible claim to be France’s next prime minister.

But firebrand Melenchon’s hopes of dragging France sharply leftward appear dead after mainstream party chiefs quickly ruled out forming a coalition with a tax-and-spend, pro-Gaza figure who many in France view as an antisemitic radical.

The New Popular Front (NFP) leftist alliance could seek to cobble together an unwieldy coalition without him, or try to form a minority government by reaching individual deals on legislation with rivals, but neither would be easy.

Melenchon, who denies accusations of antisemitism, “is the most divisive figure within the NFP,” said Socialist leader Olivier Faure, referring to the New Popular Front (NFP) leftist alliance.

Other members of the NFP, speaking on condition of anonymity, were even more frank.

“Melenchon is a problem,” a Green party lawmaker told Reuters.

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Melenchon, 72, has been a fixture of the French left for decades, holding ministerial posts in past governments when he was a Socialist party member. He ran for president in 2012, 2017 and 2022, coming third that year behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Although not a lawmaker himself, he holds a tight grip on the LFI. An admirer of Latin American revolutionary leaders, he advocates price controls, a huge increase in the minimum wage, and a reinstatement of the wealth tax.

His reputation took a beating in 2018 when he was caught on camera shouting “I am the Republic!” to anti-graft investigators searching his party headquarters

The question of how to deal with Melenchon is just one of the headaches facing France’s new lawmakers as they seek to chart a path forward for a country unaccustomed to the chaotic coalition governments often seen in Germany and the Netherlands.