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“The Whole Country of France Has Won”: Far Right Blocked from Power as Left Surges

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A leftist coalition pulled off a surprise victory in the second round of parliamentary elections in France on Sunday, becoming the largest bloc in Parliament and successfully keeping the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen out of government. The New Popular Front, which won 182 seats in the National Assembly, still fell short of the 289 seats required for an absolute majority. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition came second with 163 seats, while the National Rally and its allies won 143 seats after having led the first round of voting a week earlier. We go to Paris to speak with author and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi and journalist Rokhaya Diallo about the historic election result.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn now to France, where a newly formed leftist coalition dealt a surprising blow to the far right and French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party in Sunday’s final round of a heated snap parliamentary election. The leftist coalition, the New Popular Front, has won the most seats in the French Parliament, as a political alliance between center-left and more progressive parties came together to defeat Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party after the far-right held a significant lead in the election’s first round last week and scored major advances in recent European Parliament elections. Supporters of the leftist New Popular Front took to the streets to celebrate as results were announced Sunday.

NEW POPULAR FRONT SUPPORTERS: Front Populaire! Front Populaire! Front Populaire!

AMY GOODMAN: No party has secured an absolute majority in France’s National Assembly, with the New Popular Front winning 182 seats, short of the 289 seats required for an absolute majority to form a new government.

Prime Minister Macron stunned France by dissolving the National Assembly and calling snap elections in the hopes French voters would keep his centrist coalition in power. Following their defeat, Macron’s prime minister, Gabriel Attal, offered to resign, but Macron today asked him to stay on temporarily to, quote, “ensure the stability of the country,” unquote. The pair met at the presidential palace earlier today along with Macron’s top political allies.

The New Popular Front has vowed to raise the minimum wage, to cap the price of essential foods and utilities, and to throw out Macron’s hugely unpopular pension reform, which raised the retirement age. The group says it will reimpose taxes on the wealthiest and corporations. The New Popular Front also says it will recognize Palestinian statehood, after Macron’s government earlier this year refused to do so.

The head of the progressive France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, spoke following his coalition’s victory Sunday.

JEAN-LUC MÉLENCHON: [translated] The president has the power. The president has the duty to call on the New Popular Front to govern. … It is ready. The New Popular Front will respect the mandate according to the vote cast for its candidates. Our given word will be respected. The New Popular Front will apply its manifesto, all its manifesto and nothing but its manifesto.

AMY GOODMAN: Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose party had steadily risen in popularity across France, backing anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, anti-Muslim and antisemitic policies, slammed the results of the election.

MARINE LE PEN: [translated] We’re losing one more year, one more year of unregulated immigration, one more year of losing purchasing power, one more year of a blowing up of insecurity in our country.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes just a few weeks before Paris hosts the Olympics.

For more, we go to Paris, where we’re joined by two guests. Marjane Satrapi is a French Iranian filmmaker, author of the graphic novel Persepolis, her recent book, Woman, Life, Freedom. She designed a 30-foot-long tapestry commissioned to mark the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. We’re also joined by Rokhaya Diallo, French journalist, writer and filmmaker.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Rokhaya, let’s begin with you. Your assessment of what took place, this upset victory, where the left came in first, the centrist Macron came in second and the far right third?

ROKHAYA DIALLO: [inaudible] collective effort of people from the civil society who managed to make sure to put the far right away from the power, because the threat was very concrete and many people actually realized how dangerous the fact that the far right could be in position of power could be for France, not only for people who are, you know, minorities, immigrants, women, LGBTQIA, but also for the institutions, since the far-right program intended to challenge the Constitution and to lower the power of the Supreme Courts.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk more about why Macron did this. I mean, he — and the significance of him not accepting the resignation of the prime minister today. Will he remain president of France?

ROKHAYA DIALLO: I think he did this — it was a gamble, because he didn’t win the European election, and he thought that it was a way for him to reshuffle the power. Actually, many people still struggle to understand why he made that choice, because it was very dangerous. It was at a moment when the far right, the National Rally, was gaining more and more power. So, it’s still a mystery to me, because it was such an irresponsible move.

And today his decision to maintain Gabriel Attal is because we know that nobody really won the election. The Parliament is kind of in between several different forces, and none of them has an absolute majority. So, I think that he hopes that he will be able to build a coalition around the center — so, the center-right and the center-left — and so that would make him able to keep Gabriel Attal the prime minister in power and not to lose the capacity of be the one forming the government.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Marjane Satrapi into this conversation, French Iranian filmmaker and author. Can you talk about what’s going on in the streets right now? Were people themselves as surprised as the media was around the world at what took place? And what does this mean? Is this meaning a hung Parliament? What power will Marine Le Pen’s party have in all of this? You came to Paris, what, some 30 years ago and were taking on Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father.


First of all, I think that this election is — actually, the whole country of France has won. France has succeeded. The values that are defended in France are the value of the human rights, are the value of, you know, actually accepting people, having them, giving them shelter. So, this France is very contradictory with the France of Marine Le Pen.

Then, it’s about 30% of the French population that actually went to vote for the extreme right, and that is not something new. We have that since many years. They made a big deal, you know, in the European election, which is bizarre, because the people of the extreme right that are in the European Parliament, they don’t do nothing. They’re actually — most of the time, they’re absent. People, they actually voted for them, but, then, you know, we always have this idea that we really have to defend the republic. And the extreme right is against the republic.

I heard people saying, “Oh, we never tried, you know, the extreme right. So let’s see what it gives.” We actually have tried the extreme right. It’s called the Régime de Vichy. It’s called what has happened on the Second World War, where they were extremely active, more than what the Germans, they asked them, you know, in the execution of the Jews and the communists. And, you know, they collaborated. So, yes, we have that. And I think the danger of the extreme right in the whole world today is equal. I mean, people, they don’t have the excuse of not knowing what the extreme right gives. Nobody has the excuse of, you know, this, a lack of knowledge. We all know what happened in the Second World War. We know that that was the extreme right, and we know what is the result of the extreme right. So, anywhere in the world, in the democratic world, that is a vote for that is actually a vote for dictatorship. And French people, basically, most of them, they didn’t want.

Now the situation is somehow complex. But you talk a lot about Jean-Luc Mélenchon. I don’t think that he is actually — he’s a representative of this united left, because, unlike what is said, he’s not a progressive leftist. He’s a radical leftist. I think he’s antisemite. You know, his relationship with Hamas is quiet; we don’t know what it is. His relation with Putin is uncertain. He has been in awe in front of all the dictators of, you know, the South American. You know, he was in love with Chávez. He loves all these dictators.

I think this coalition, you have four parties. One of them is the party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, where the big heads of, actually, this party, they have left it, because they couldn’t stand him anymore, people like Clémentine Autain or Ruffin or all this big power they have left. You have the communists. You have the socialists. You have the ecologists. So, you have this coalition.

But the most important, that was a slap in the face of the extreme right. But also, during this one week, I think people in the television and in the interviews, they saw the candidate of the extreme right. And, you know, it’s a joke as a candidate. None of them they have a program. I mean, it’s always easy to be against. It’s always very easy to be in opposition. But once it comes to governing a country, you have to have some knowledge. You have to have an economical program. You know, just saying, “Oh, the immigrant people, they do this and that, and they come” — you know, the immigrant people also work. I mean, I work in France. Each film that I made in France, I made — I don’t know — hundreds of French people work. We bring money. We pay our taxes. We are parties of this society. And French people, actually, they celebrated that. So, yeah, it’s a victory of France.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask Rokhaya Diallo if you share that assessment of Mélenchon. Certainly, Jeremy Corbyn, who we just spoke to, who won back his seat as a member of Parliament in Britain and is a friend of Mélenchon, did not feel that way. Your assessment and where this all goes?

ROKHAYA DIALLO: So, I think, first of all, the issue is not about Jean-Luc Mélenchon. It’s about the left, which managed to build a coalition. I don’t agree with the fact of classifying the France Unbowed, the party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, as a radical left party, since the Supreme Court of France, le Conseil d’État, classified the protests, and the only party that is classified as being extreme is the far-right National Rally. So, all of the left parties are labeled as being from the left.

And the other thing, to me, which is important is that we — I think it’s important to tamper the joy of the fact that the National Rally, the far right, didn’t win, because even if they didn’t make it to have the absolute majority, they had opened the floodgates of racism. During the campaign, we’ve seen many people being abused, being assaulted, being insulted because they were LGBTQIA, because they were minorities, because they were foreigners. You know, they have been physically and verbally insulted, even assaulted, even people who were very famous and visible journalists. So, I think that we need to address what was at the heart of the campaign of the far right, which is racism.

So, of course, there is an issue of antisemitism that needs to be addressed on the left, and not only, according to me, in the party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. I think this is an issue, but I think they have been demonized because of their pro-Palestinian stance and because they are the only party to actually address Islamophobia. And I think that the left in France needs to address Islamophobia, because the anti-Muslim sentiment is very, very widespread. And it’s the reason why the National Rally has been able to be — has been normalized, because the Islamophobia is so normalized now today in France that it’s easy for the National Rally to just appear to be respectable.

So, I think that the next step for the left will be to be explicit on how they want to address racism and actually systemic racism, because not only the France Unbowed has been demonized, but also many antiracism activists, and especially those who are Muslim, have been demonized and seen as being, you know, against the so-called universalist ideology that is — that is, yeah, supposed to be the prevailing ideology in France. And to me, it’s a myth.

So, I think that Jean-Luc Mélenchon is an issue to the left, because he’s still very authoritarian. You know, when there was a candidate that was convicted for assaulting his wife, Jean-Luc Mélenchon supported him, and that was an issue to me as a feminist. And I think that he needs to be clear when someone is problematic in the party, that that person should be evicted for good. And I think antisemitism is core to the far right. That’s the program of the far right. It was — the National Rally was founded by former Waffen-SS, by people who were Nazis, who were Holocaust deniers and who were also involved in the French colonization of Algeria. So, you know, hearing only about the antisemitism on the left, to me, is problematic, since we have — we are still today facing the danger of the far right, you know, about to take over the power. And that’s the issue for me.

AMY GOODMAN: Rokhaya Diallo, I want to thank you for being with us, French journalist, writer and filmmaker, speaking to us from Paris. Marjane Satrapi, French Iranian filmmaker, I’d like to ask you to stay with us as we move next to Tehran to talk about an update on the Iranian election. Stay with us.

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