French unions call for strikes to pressure Macron to allow left-wing coalition government


PARIS (AP) — With just 15 days to go until the start of the Olympic Games in Parisa leader of a major French union called for mass strikes on Thursday to put pressure on the president Emmanuel Macron to respect the “results” of the recent parliamentary elections and allow a left-wing coalition to form a new government.

France was on the brink of a government crisis paralysis Since Sunday’s vote for the National Assembly, the influential lower house of parliament, resulted in a split in the legislature into three political groupings: the left-wing New Popular Front coalition, Macron’s centrist allies and Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National.

The Alliance of the New Popular Front won the most seats in the legislature, but did not have an absolute majority to govern independently. The three main parties of the alliance, the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialists and the Greens, urged the president to turn to them to form the new government.

Sophie Binet, the secretary general of the CGT union, said in an interview with French broadcaster LCI on Thursday that if Macron does not respect the election results, “he risks plunging the country into chaos again.”

Binet said the president should let the New Popular Front form the new government, although the left-wing alliance has not yet nominated a candidate for prime minister due to internal divisions. She called on union members to take to the streets and “participate in meetings to put the National Assembly under supervision.”

“There must be pressure from the population so that the election results are respected,” Binet said.

Macron has asked his Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, to continue handling day-to-day affairs despite Attal’s offer to resign. On Wednesday, Macron said he would wait for the country’s political parties to reach a broad consensus in the National Assembly before he can choose a new prime minister, angering the left-wing coalition and the unions.

The inaugural session of the new legislature is scheduled for July 18.

According to a union statement, CGT rail workers called for nationwide demonstrations on July 18 in front of prefectures and the National Assembly in Paris, demanding that the New Popular Front be allowed to form a government.

The social situation in France was already tense before the political unrest caused by the early parliamentary elections. There were protests by teachers, police officers and farmers which followed the major demonstrations last year against the increase in the retirement age.

Macron called the surprise early elections after the anti-immigration Rassemblement National party made huge gains in the June 9 European elections, a risky gamble in the hope that French voters would block the far-right party, as they had done in the past.

CFDT union leader Marylise Léon said problems were still being felt acutely by many working people. She said Macron’s reluctance to appoint a new prime minister whose government she could take on was worrying.

“Workers’ expectations around purchasing power and working conditions have not disappeared,” Leon said in an interview with broadcaster France Inter on Thursday. “Strikes are sometimes the only way to unblock a situation.”

She said the union would not rule out strikes during the July 26-August 11 Olympics “in certain sectors if social dialogue fails,” including private security and Paris airports. However, she added that “the aim of CFDT is not to block the Olympic Games.”


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