PARIS (Reuters) - French far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon called on Wednesday for a nationwide day of protest next week against government plans for spending cuts and pro-business tax and labor reforms.
Melenchon, a failed presidential candidate earlier this year and now a member of parliament, was speaking a day after a parliamentary vote of confidence in the plans of President Emmanuel Macron, whom he said was getting drunk on power and was trying to undo decades of progress on crucial workers’ rights.
“I ask my friends everywhere in the country to organize rallies for July 12,” said Melenchon, the head of the France Unbowed party who gathered one in five votes in the first round of the presidential election in April.
Speaking on BFM TV, Melenchon was fiercely critical of Macron’s first two months in power. Macron this week called a special meeting of the both houses of parliament at which he told lawmakers he would use a referendum to get parliamentary reforms through if necessary.
“We are going down a road where he is becoming intoxicated by his omnipotence,” said the 65 year-old who is well-known for his use of powerful language.
“He thinks he can fix all the problems by force. He is wrong.”
Melenchon mobilized the militant leftist vote in the presidential contest and has emerged a forceful voice in a fragmented left. His party, though, won only 17 seats in the parliamentary election which gave Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party a large majority in the 577-seat lower house.
In addition, France’s powerful trade unions have so far been muted in their reaction to the program outlined by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday.
The hardline CGT is the only union to have called a strike to date, and does not plan a major one until September. Other leading unions have sounded a more conciliatory note on talks with the government.
Reporting by Andrew Callus and Cyril Camu; editing by Richard Lough