Mélenchon surges in polls in run-up to French legislative elections

The first round of the French legislative elections will take place tomorrow, seven weeks after the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron. However, Macron’s “Ensemble!” election coalition is falling behind the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished third in the French presidential elections with 22 percent of the vote.

On Thursday, several polls were published showing NUPES candidates leading in absolute numbers of votes with 28 percent of the total, in front of “Ensemble!” with 27 percent. Marine Le Pen’s neo-fascist National Rally (RN) polled 19.5 percent, and the right-wing The Republicans (LR) 11 percent.

There is enormous uncertainty about the outcome of the election. As Mélenchon’s vote is concentrated in urban working class areas, Macron’s coalition would likely get the most seats, by carrying the many smaller rural districts. In the 577-seat National Assembly, “Ensemble!” would have 260 to 300 seats, NUPES 175 to 215, LR 35 to 55, and the RN 20 to 60. Macron could thus fail to get the 289-seat majority needed to form a government, though Mélenchon’s promise to win the election and become prime minister under Macron also appears vulnerable.

The surge in votes for Mélenchon—who has won support by pledging to bring the retirement age back down to 60, block gas price increases and increase pensions and the minimum wage—reflects an attempt by workers and youth to register a left-wing vote. It has exploded the capitalist media’s explanation for the two-decade rise of neo-fascist parties: namely, that French workers are shifting relentlessly to the right.

In fact, workers are looking to register a left-wing vote and avert the devastating impact of inflation in fuel and food prices that is rampaging across the world capitalist economy. Neo-fascists have lost 4 percent of the vote since the presidential election, amid an international upsurge of the class struggle. During the legislative election campaign, health and airport workers across France and Europe struck against low wages, social austerity and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, however, the Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES), the French section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), stresses that workers can place no confidence in Mélenchon, who will inevitably disappoint whatever hopes they place in him. Mélenchon aims to drive workers into a parliamentary dead end of supporting a Mélenchon-Macron coalition government, to defuse the mounting radicalization of the working class and to avert an explosion of the class struggle.

Yesterday, Mélenchon issued a last-minute election appeal, saying: “A great time has come. Sunday, if you want, if you go vote … if you vote NUPES, we can change the history of our country and, above all, the lives of each and every one of us.” With enough NUPES votes, he added, “we will have a majority of deputies in the National Assembly, and from there, a government of which I will be the prime minister. So it’s the time to make a simple effort … it just takes a few moments, and it can change everything.”

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