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New Popular Front’s spending plan compatible with EU rules – Mélenchon

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The left-wing alliance has pledged to up public spending at a time when France has been cautioned over its excessive public deficit.

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon has sought to quell fears that a prospective left-wing government in France would disrupt the European Union’s spending norms.

In a visit to Brussels days after his left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front (NPF), swept to a surprise victory in the second round of the French legislative elections, Mélenchon claimed that his alliance’s radical spending plans were watertight.

“I don’t know how our programme is contradictory to (…) European budgetary rules,” he said, adding that he was not aware of any spending rules in the bloc other than the need to maintain a “certain level of balance.”

“What I can say is that we are clever and intelligent enough to understand that we have no interest in a head-on collision with institutions capable of the worst, like the European Commission,” he added, in a jab at the EU’s powerful executive.

On the campaign trail, the New Popular Front vowed to raise government spending by €150 billion, and committed to a 10% rise in public sector wages and housing subsidies. It says extra spending would be offset by taxes on the super-rich and large enterprises.

But Paris is already under scrutiny in Brussels for its failure to clamp down on public deficit.

The EU executive cautioned the French government last month for its persistently high deficit – or the difference between government spending and revenue -, which stood at 5.5% of economic output in 2023.

The bloc requires member states to maintain their budget deficits below 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).

This formal cautioning from the EU executive means Paris is expected to forge a plan hand-in-hand with Brussels to reduce its deficit overload – a process the next government, once formed, would need to tackle head-on.

Sunday’s inconclusive election result delivered a hung parliament, meaning the route to government is currently unclear, with France facing a period of political instability. President Macron has asked current prime minister Gabriel Attal to stay in office to provide continuity in government while coalition talks are ongoing.

On Wednesday, Mélenchon claimed that the only way of addressing France’s excessive deficit was to increase revenue, which his LFI party has consistently advocated for by raising taxes.

“I can tell you that there is not a new expense – and I make a commitment to you on behalf of the coalition, and not just on my own behalf – (…) not an additional expense that is not guaranteed by additional revenue,” he asserted.

Mélenchon also aimed to pin blame for France’s fiscal worries on free-market capitalism.

“Neoliberal policies create debt and social disruption. It’s clear therefore that things are bound to go worse for France, having been a state-run economy for a millennium, than for other states when we disrupt the state and public services and the major institutions of social solidarity,” he quipped.

Political paralysis a concern in Brussels

Mélenchon, who was the first party leader to make a declaration after the exit poll was unveiled in France on Sunday, is likely to spook many centrists in Brussels.

His France Unbowed (LFI) party is considered to be on the very left-wing fringe of the New Popular Front, which also harbours centre-left forces.

Of all political parties within the alliance, France Unbowed has secured most seats (71) in the French National Assembly, followed by the Socialist Party (PS) on 64 seats.

Mélenchon has persistently called on President Macron to appoint a prime minister from the left-wing alliance. He claimed on Wednesday that a “rule” had been established within his alliance that the group that came first within the coalition would propose a prime ministerial candidate.

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But a premier hailing from the far-left grouping would no doubt be a red line for other centrist forces that could be potential governing partners for the NFP.

Mélenchon did acknowledge that the process of nominating a prime ministerial candidate palatable across the left-wing alliance needed to factor in “all kinds of aspects.”

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