Legislative assembly

A look back at the last five years of Mélenchon’s opposition to the National Assembly

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left La France insoumise (LFI) party, which came third in the first round of the 2022 presidential election, has 17 deputies in the National Assembly since the 2017 legislative elections. noted not only for their ability to create buzz, but also for blocking certain government texts.

On May 10, 2022, the Greens, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party of France all agreed to form a historic alliance with the far left France insoumise (La France Insoumise or LFI), ahead of the June legislative elections in the hope to obtain a lower house. majority. Despite its current small number of members, LFI has been very active in the National Assembly over the past five years. It has adopted a hundred bills and more than 60 motions for resolution, tabled more than 60,000 amendments, set up four commissions of inquiry and intervened thousands of times in parliament.

In June 2017, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had been a senator from Essonne for 18 years, was the only one of the 17 LFI deputies to know how Parliament worked. Indeed, his colleagues were mocked during the first months of their mandate for their lack of experience. In addition to the fact that she had been a nursing assistant before being elected, some opponents of Caroline Fiat nicknamed her “the assistant Bac -2”, in reference to her educational training, while Adrien Quatennens, who had previously been customer adviser for EDF (Électricité de France SA, a French multinational electricity utility company), received the nickname “Assistant Call Center”.

However, the mockery quickly died down when it became clear that LFI MPs were serious about positioning themselves as an opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s presidential majority during his five-year term.

“The LFI deputies have really been very active, very present and very invested in their role, both in committee and in the Assembly, doing serious substantive work, said Olivier Rozenberg, professor at Sciences-Po and specialist in parliamentary life.

“Our objective was simple: to be the first opponent and the first proposer”, explains Mathilde Panot, MP for Val-de-Marne and president of the LFI parliamentary group in the National Assembly. “We wanted to fight the government both by bringing the country’s various social struggles to the National Assembly while making sure, each time, to propose another vision by translating our program into legislative proposals”, she said. for follow-up. “For example, we are the only group that has presented a counter-budget and a counter-management plan for Covid every year.”

“Our voice must be heard by as many people as possible”

However, it was the stunts of the LFI deputies that made the biggest impression. Very early in the legislature, LFI took advantage of the Palais-Bourbon media platform to make itself known. Alexis Corbière, MP for Seine-Saint-Denis, pushed back against the government’s decision to reduce the personal housing allowance by €5 by presenting a shopping basket containing €5 worth of food to Parliament. Adrien Quatennens, deputy from the North, encouraged the deputies of La République en Marche (LREM) to be “rebellious” during the revision of the Labor Code. And finally, François Ruffin, deputy of the Somme, wore the jersey of an amateur football club when he mentioned the financing of non-professional sport. All these actions have created a buzz, with videos widely shared on social networks.

If LFI and its newly created coalition win a majority in parliament, no doubt more eye-catching actions will take place. He pledged to introduce a monthly minimum wage of €1,400, a monthly allowance for young people, a freeze on the prices of basic necessities, the restoration of wealth tax, the repeal of the Macron’s flat tax on capital gains, an “ecological development” program to transition to a greener future and establish a Sixth Republic, an institutional overhaul in which the powers of the executive would be reduced in favor of parliament and the people. LFI ran on all these proposals during the last French presidential election in April.

“It is true that some of our interventions have had several million views, which was quite unprecedented in the history of the National Assembly”, underlines Mr. Panot. “We assume that the words we speak in the Assembly are meant to be heard by as many people as possible, so you will never hear us talk about Amendment No. 6147 to delete paragraph 4 of Article 2. When Alexis Corbière took out his basket, our primary objective was to bring reality into the debates.”

“This strategy has been effective because it’s talked about and remembered,” Rozenberg says. “But above all, it was also an opportunity to bring out, alongside Jean-Luc Mélenchon, new figures within LFI who otherwise would not have existed. The assessment after five years is therefore rather beneficial. A new generation has been formed. “

LFI deputies also took advantage of their parliamentary niches, which were granted to opposition groups so that they could set the agenda of the National Assembly usually set by the government. This meant that bills with which the government was not comfortable could be passed, notably the recognition of occupational pathologies resulting from burn-out, the introduction of receipts for identity checks, the prohibition glyphosate, the capping of bank charges, the extension of the activity income supplement to young people aged 18 to 25. and the introduction of a crisis profiteering tax.

“All of these texts were rejected, but since they were popular with the public, they used them to catch the government off guard,” says Rozenberg.

Clémentine Autain, the deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, nevertheless managed to get a resolution voted in January 2022 recognizing endometriosis as a long-term condition (ALD). Two days after President Macron presented a plan dedicated to him, this subject hit the media headlines. It would therefore have been difficult for the presidential majority to vote against this recognition, which the authorities had been demanding for several years.

“The blocking of deliberations raises questions”

However, the actions of LFI deputies have also been hindered on numerous occasions. Unable to block a bill because of their small number, the LFI group drafted several amendments and points of order in order to slow down the examination of certain texts.

At the beginning of 2020, the pension reform thus resulted in the tabling by the rebel deputies of 19,000 amendments. “We recognize our obstructionism,” Mélenchon told BFMTV. “Because, in the same way as a trade unionist goes on strike for 43, 45, 50 days and loses his salary, the deputies would be failing in their duty if they did not use all possible weapons to delay the final decision which could be automatically imposed on the House.

So much so that the presidential majority is worried about what will happen if a very large number of LFI deputies are elected in the legislative elections of June 12 and 19. “LFI has adopted a strategy of chaos. (…) There is a risk of permanent political guerrilla warfare in substance and form,” said François de Rugy, the former “macronist” president of the National Assembly, in an article published on May 16 by L’Opinion.

Especially since the first opposition group is – in principle – given the presidency of the Finance Committee, another subject of concern for the outgoing presidential majority. “LFI could take the opportunity to investigate Bercy in order to highlight this or that public spending problem or fully inform itself of the consequences of the abolition of the ISF. [solidarity tax on wealth]”, says Rozenberg. “But I don’t think it’s going to create chaos. Rather, it is an opportunity to see important things happen in the Assembly.”

“It’s true that if we are 150 or 200, that changes everything. And being in charge of the finance committee would make us even stronger adversaries”, believes Panot. “That said, she continues, the ‘Walkers’ are right to be afraid of us because we do not want to be the first opposition group: we want the majority.”

In the last presidential election in April 2022, LFI’s platform was heavily focused on social issues and the cost of living, and Mélanchon garnered 22% of the vote, narrowly losing to Marine Le Pen, who faced Macron in the second round.

This article was adapted from the original in French by Mariamne Everett.