France is set to hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, June 12. The election for the 577-member National Assembly will be held in two stages. The first round on Sunday will be followed by a run-off round on June 19 in constituencies where it is necessary. The voting follows the presidential election in April when incumbent Emmanuel Macron won a lackluster victory.
One highlight of the presidential election was the strong showing by left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon who won close to 22% of the votes and ended up narrowly losing to the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen who contested against Macron in the second round. However, in these elections, left and progressive forces were divided. For the parliamentary elections, they have come together under the banner of the New Ecologic and Social People’s Union (NUPES) under Mélenchon’s leadership with a radical vision for France. Zoe Alexandra of Peoples Dispatch speaks to Florence Roger, the NUPES candidates for the First constituency for French Residents Overseas which covers French citizens living in the US and Canada.
Peoples Dispatch (PD): What is the perspective of NUPES regarding the results of the presidential elections? Is France seeing an increase in the strength of the far-right?
Florence Roger (FL): The NUPES defines itself as a union of the left and ecological parties, which agrees on the essential aspects of 650 proposals made to the French people in metropolitan France and abroad. It proposes to bring back eco-socialism in the debate and in the National Assembly with a coalition government which would allow us to carry out our proposals of social and ecological justice.
Yes, the extreme right is progressing in France because there is an ambient discourse largely relaying its ideas, as well as a crisis of representation: the citizens do not find themselves anymore represented in the technocrats who govern us and in a system where participative democracy is absent. Moreover, the public services are deteriorating and poverty is exploding, leading to a rebellion against the elites in the form of rising extreme ideology.
PD: Can you talk about this historic alliance that has been built between progressives for the upcoming parliamentary elections? How did it come about and why is it important?
FL: The NUPES alliance is historic in the sense that it gathers different left-wing and ecologist forces around a true common program of social and ecological justice. It was formed around the idea of addressing the ecological, social and democratic challenges that are threatening us. Even if the different parties involved do not agree on everything, they do agree on the essential [aspect]: it is urgent to act, and to stand together in the face of the supporters of neoliberal ideology who are, at best, indifferent to the ecological crisis on our doorstep.
PD: There has been a lot of discontent under the Macron presidency largely due to cuts to social spending and other attacks on people’s hard fought rights. How does the NUPES alliance intend to address this?
FL: NUPES is firmly opposed to the austerity policies advocated by financiers who put society at the service of the economy and not the opposite. It is urgent to get out of the trap of deadly indicators like the GDP which do not take into account the well-being of individuals, nor the repercussions of capitalist economic depredation on nature. We propose a policy of economic revival through public investment, and the rehabilitation of our hard-won social gains, which are an investment that a country cannot do without integrating a policy for a sustainable future and the preservation of the living.
PD: What are the other key issues for NUPES in the parliamentary sphere?
FL: The priorities of NUPES are therefore threefold: ecological, social and democratic. It is about the preservation of our common goods, starting with nature, and taking into account that there is an inseparable relationship between ecosystems and our basic needs. We are for strong sustainability, which starts from the principle that any impact on our natural resources like air or water or on phenomena like pollination is irreversible.
PD: As a candidate running for the North American seat, can you speak to the major issues for this constituency?
FL: The stakes for the French in North America (USA-Canada) are also based on the preservation of our public services, starting with the consular staff which is being reduced year after year to the point that it now takes seven months to get a passport redone in Montreal, and that many consular tours are no longer carried out. It is also a question of promoting access to scholarships for families wishing to integrate their children into the French school system, and of reviewing access to health care for people returning to France by shortening the waiting period and by making the contributions to the Caisse des Français de l’Etranger [Fund for French Nationals Abroad which is used for welfare benefits] more fair. Finally, many people encounter problems in obtaining visas, directly resulting from certain agreements between France and the United States, for example.