France's Left Bands Together vs Macron

PARIS (AP) -- Long-divided left-wing parties in France will march into forthcoming legislative elections largely together, after the Socialist Party agreed late Thursday to join a new coalition of the left that hopes to limit re-elected centrist President Emmanuel Macron 's room for policy-making in his second term.

The Socialists join the Greens and the Communist Party in hooking their wagon to the France Unbowed party of hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mlenchon. He placed third in the presidential election in April, just short of the run-off won by Macron. But Mlenchon hopes his showing will be a springboard for the left to win big in the National Assembly elections in June.

By agreeing not to field candidates against each other in the 577 legislative districts, the left-wing coalition of parties has put long-held political and personal differences aside. By coalescing around Mlenchon, their aim is to deprive Macron of the parliamentary majority he used in his first term to push through legislation.

"We are going to campaign together," Socialist leader Olivier Faure said in announcing that the party's national committee had voted on Thursday night to join the coalition.

Still, the parties' decision to rally around Mlenchon -- who hopes to become prime minister of a new parliamentary majority for the left -- is not without risk, because he remains a divisive figure among left-wing voters. The Socialist Party, in particular, has been riven with disputes about whether to get behind him.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron's centrist party is rebranding and forming alliances with other moderate parties ahead of the legislative elections.

The president's political movement, La Republique en Marche (The Republic on the Move) changed its name to Renaissance and teamed up with two other centrist parties to mount a joint effort to win a ruling majority in the parliament for Macron's second term.

Macron defeated his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, in last month's presidential vote. Le Pen's score in two rounds of voting was unprecedented, suggesting that political leanings in France may be shifting increasingly to the right.

However, legislative elections are traditionally difficult for Le Pen's National Rally, in part because other parties often come together to bar the way for its candidates. Macron's new coalition, called Ensemble! (Together!), primarily faces a challenge from the left in June's parliamentary election.

The president's movement and its centrist allies together hold over 300 seats in the outgoing parliament, making him the favorite to again win a majority.

Macron is hoping that having elected him to a second, five-year term, a large enough number of voters won't want to tie his hands by saddling him with a parliament largely filled with opponents.