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French Communist Party to stand 2020 Presidential Candidate, Fabien Roussel.

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Fabien Roussel PCF Presidential Candidate.

Présidentielle: le PCF opte pour une candidature «quoi qu’il en coûte» Mediapart (adapted).

For the first in fifteen years the French Communist Party, the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) has determined that it will present a Presidential candidate. That is, if a earth-shaking realignment does not take place on the left agrees on a united candidate.

Last weekend, during a national conference organised partly by videoconference, two-thirds of the around a thousand party delegates voted to present the candidacy of Fabien Roussel for the next presidential election. A candidacy that the national secretary of the PCF and deputy of the North promises to carry “right to its conclusion” and which must be ratified by a final vote of the members, on May 9th.

In 2017 the PCF had backed Jean Luc-Mélenchon and his Rally/Movement La France insoumise (LFI) in their bid for the Presidency. That option is, for the Communists, no long viable. Not only was the Mélenchon operation,, in common knowledge a populist leader with a “controversial” personality, a far from unifying machine, but, “Communist and LFI candidates competed in the following legislative elections, fratricidal duels, in most constituencies, especially in the red suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis and Val -de-Marne.”

The last time the PCF ran for the office of Head of State, Marie-George Buffet, in 2007, they had only got 1.9% of the votes. More recently, in the European elections of 2019, where they ended with a score of less than 3% – the threshold necessary for the reimbursement of the campaign. For the first time in the history of the European Parliament French Communist MEPs were not returned to Brussels.

Avec Fabien Roussel, les communistes retrouvent le goût du risque

Explaining their differences with Mélenchon,

 Some of the PCF cadres are still pushing for a new rapprochement with the rebels but they are in the minority in a family where every vote counts. The Communists have a strong argument: they no longer believe in the strength of the double presidential candidate (11% in 2012 and 19% in 2017). A leader said (of Mélenchon) curtly: “He can’t get the same score as the last time, it’s over, he’s burnt out.” Harsh words, shared on the left and among environmentalists. Yet les Insoumises still believe in their star.

At 11% Mélenchon is at present topping the poll for left and green candidates for the 2022 elections. The Green (EELV) Yannick Jadot is at 6% and the Socialist (PS) Anne Hidalgo is at 7%.

There are, as this Blog has reported, welcome moves for left unity in some areas, such as the Haut-de-France, for this year’s regional elections in June. How far a “dynamic” towards wider unity will spread is an open question.

Reporting on these developments the US left-populist magazine Jacobin says.

MP Fabien Roussel — national secretary of the Communist PCF — has declared his own presidential bid within his party. On Sunday a PCF national conference endorsed the idea of an independent presidential run, which would be the party’s first since 2007. The wider PCF membership, slated to vote on the project from May 7–9, will also likely have the option to vote for a competing resolution which calls on the party to build unity before the first round of the presidential election. For what it’s worth, PCF members have bucked party leadership before: In the fall of 2016, they voted to endorse Mélenchon’s campaign, rejecting the national conference’s vote for a PCF candidate.

In Northern France, A Divided Left Is Finally Coming Together Cole Stangler.

There are a number of problems with this. Conflicts between LFI and the PCF have grown since 2016. Mélenchon is an outstanding speaker in a political culture that prizes oratory. His left populism won him 7 million votes (19,58 %) in the 2017 Presidential election. But in practice the way he operates is as a one-man band with retainers and followers, unable to tolerate internal pluralism. LFI operates as an autocracy. There are no internal currents, and no mechanism for ‘supporters’ (there are no members properly speaking, except the top clique) to dissent. As Thomas Guénolé says there is “True democracy and self-management in words, but centralised and authoritarian management in reality.” (La Chute de la maison Mélenchon 2019).

A third time Mélenchon candidacy is unlikely to be backed by activists who have experience of this side of La France Insoumise. And that’s without wider political disagreements on the left.

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