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France needs genuine policy change and concrete, rapid improvements in living standards or Le Pen will triumph


May 7, 2012

Following the victory of Socialist Francois Hollande over right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of France’s Presidential elections on Sunday, French communist daily L’Humanite caught up with Olivier Dartigolles, spokesman for the French Communist Party, which is a founding and central member of the Left Front, to discuss the objectives of the radical coalition ahead of next month’s legislative elections

L’Humanite: The victory of the Left was widely celebrated at a gathering at the Bastille, including by supporters of the Left Front. What is your initial take on this result?

Olivier Dartigolles: It was a very great relief. After five years of Sarkozyism and 10 years of the Right, it was essential that the dynamics of the Left, of bringing people together, was able to end what was certainly one of the worst periods in terms of tainting our values and brutalizing the living conditions of large sections of society.

Last night, there were two feelings. Of course, the satisfaction, the joy, of having created the political conditions for a defeat Sarkozy, but also gravity. Because today the Left has a great responsibility, and no doubt faces even greater challenges ahead at a European level, during a time of intense political recomposition and of ideological battles. The Left Front has played a key role and made an essential contribution to the election of Francois Hollande. Yesterday was a milestone…but after winning [the Presidential election], the Left must absolutely succeed [in the coming parliamentary poll].

L’Humanite: Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated yesterday; how do you interpret the sanction of the ballot box?

Olivier Dartigolles: Our country was exhausted. We had to get rid of him. Last night, there was a “whew” of relief because a majority of our people understood what a second five year term of Sarkozy would have meant, with the direction taken by his campaign between the two rounds. The dikes have completely broken between [Sarkozy’s] UMP and the Front Natonal. This extreme rightward shift is not a momentary electoral positioning. The right wants to use the crisis and its consequences to settle its accounts with the social model, with the collective guarantees and values that have endured since the Liberation. The Right’s political landscape is also disturbing. Tension is palpable in the French people who feel that, if this change in the political majority is not accompanied by a genuine change in policy and real, concrete and rapid improvements in living standards, the next time, the Right will have Le Pen in its armoury.

L’Humanite: What challenges lie ahead for the left?

Olivier Dartigolles: A page has been turned and a new chapter starts. The expectations of a Left that meets the challenges of the era in a historically new context are written in capital letters. The Left has a pressing need to make a policy change that responds to popular concerns. The coming weeks will determine whether the Left manages to draw lessons from past failures and today’s hopes.

L’Humanite: What is at stake for the Left Front in the coming legislative elections?

Olivier Dartigolles: The challenge is clear: get a left-wing majority in the Assembly and ensure that the momentum of our campaign continues in the coming weeks so that we get the number of Left Front deputies elected that can clearly influence the policies of this new majority and the solutions to end the crisis. Our priorities are those that were the burning issues of the electorate of [Left Front Presidential candidate] Jean-Luc Melenchon: wages, employment, purchasing power, health, education, public services, rejection of generalized austerity at a European level, obtaining new rights, new social and democratic gains for citizens… and employees in their workplaces. There is a desire for the Left in our country. We need to break down the barriers that prevent these policies being implemented.  In the coming days, we must explain how voting for the Left Front will be ‘useful’ for the whole Left and also for real policy change. The social emergency requires a Left majority in the National Assembly to pass laws that allow us to tackle it, and there should be no hesitation in repealing Sarkozy’s laws that have done the most harm. So, we have much work.

Original article in French

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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