What is to Come For the Front de Gauche?

As one of the all-stars of the last presidential election, the Front de Gauche (FG), is now facing the downfall: a deceiving 11% in the first round and even more disappointing scores in the legislative elections, it is only the communist ‘fortresses’ that allow the radical left to hope there will be Front de gauche representatives in Parliament. It is all the more disappointing that Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s campaign had gathered enough momentum that people could foresee a victory over the Front National (FN). Now that agitation has cooled down, what is to come for the party?

The Front de Fauche was formed for the 2009 European elections in a win-win deal: the Communist party was to use the enthusiasm for the fresh Parti de gauche (PG) (the party created by Mélenchon in 2008), while the green and red party would benefit from the Communists’ experience and networks, some of the best in France.

But today, the deal may be in danger because of several downsides: the Front de gauche is a coalition of many radical left parties, and while it does have a common program, its ideological base is extremely blurry. Additionally, the gap between the Communist party’s ideology and the Parti de gauche’s is wide, causing both constituents to make sacrifices on their claims to reach a common position. Was it worth it given the results of both elections?

It certainly was. The French radical left had been accumulating bad electoral scores year after year, and the positive prospects were inexistent. Gathering (almost) all the parties into one single force gave visibility to a marginalized part of the political spectrum.

It also gave a democratic aspect to the movement, like the Socialist party’s open primary elections,
for the presidential campaign’s program was built around public meetings in which everybody could be heard. Criticism inside a coalition composed of people from a large range of ideologies was encouraged, as opposed to Sarkozy’s program, which excluded the center right constituents of the UMP. Without these strong mediating capabilities, the radical left would have disappeared to the edge of French politics.

That does not mean the Front de Gauche’s future is bright, however. After the elections, the time for unity will have passed and the party will certainly be a battleground for the Communist party and the Parti de Gauche, with the balance of power in danger inside the coalition. In fact, it was quite obvious during the elections that Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the force holding the Front together. The Communist party is experiencing a loss of influence, while the Parti de gauche is gaining a new popularity; agreeing on something will be tough because it implies acknowledging this change.

Moreover, the two main parties are not the only constituencies of the Front de Gauche, which includes many smaller ones like Clementine Autain’s FASE. These parties will have to pick their battles and find their place in the new political landscape.

There is also the problem caused by the “outsiders”. The presidential campaign brought into the Front new activists who do belong ideologically to the Front de gauche, or at least to the common program built for the occasion. They do not belong to any particular party, but make up a huge, new activist force inside the Front, and were promised a new membership status that is still to be defined.

In the end, the Front de Fauche faces the challenge inherent to its coalition statute: who is to be given what power? But the movement has proven quite effective in organizing negotiations without breaking apart, a characteristic that is probably its main strength. What may get the movement into trouble is the eventual presence of a Communist in Hollande’s post-legislative government: ideologically and politically, the Front has no reason to ally itself with the Socialist party. In doing so, it would abandon its right to control the government and give up the visibility the opposition parties have, tying itself to Hollande’s political results. However the Communists, in need of a new dynamic, might choose this option.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: