By Juliette Jabkhiro
PARIS (Reuters) – France’s left-wing parties have agreed in principle to join forces for the June parliamentary election, in an unexpected show of unity after decades of wrangling.
Here are the key points they agreed on and a look at what policies the French left has pushed through previous alliances over the past century:
THE 2022 ‘SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL PEOPLE’S UNION’
– Lower the retirement age back to 60 from 62
– Raise the net minimum wage to 1,400 euros ($1,475) a month from 1302 euros now
– Cap prices on essential products
– Reintroduce a tax on France’s wealthiest citizens
– Temporarily break with EU rules, including on budgets and competition issues, if they block environmental and social measures.
SOCIALIST-GREEN COHABITATION UNDER CONSERVATIVE CHIRAC
In 1997, then-conservative President Jacques Chirac called a snap election he thought he would win. French voters took everyone by surprise and sent to parliament a Socialist-led majority, forming a so-called “cohabitation” with Chirac.
The government headed by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin included Communist and Green ministers and passed:
– The 35-hour workweek
– Same-sex civil unions, a first in France.
– Health coverage extended to anyone living in France including those not already benefiting from social security.
MITTERRAND AND THE COMMUNISTS
After Francois Mitterrand became in 1981 the first Socialist to win the French presidency since World War Two, a handful of Communist ministers were named to his cabinet – sending shivers through the West in the middle of the Cold War.
The Socialist-Communist alliance implemented a raft of left-wing economic measures that contrasted with the free-market revolution taking place in the United States of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s Britain.
Some emblematic measures:
– Lowering the minimum retirement age to 60.
– A fifth week of paid annual leave
– Abolition of the death penalty
– End to the state monopoly on radio stations
THE 1930s ‘POPULAR FRONT’
The “Front Populaire”, a much-respected reference across the French left, won general elections and ran the country until April 1938, passing some of the most ground-breaking pro-worker laws in the world just as Nazi Germany was gearing up for war.
– A minimum of two weeks of mandatory and paid annual leave offered to all workers
– Forty-hour work week introduced
– Workers given the freedom to unionise
($1 = 0.9491 euros)
(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Ingrid Melander, Michel Rose and Mark Heinrich)