French Socialist Party's woes

ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
#1
Socialist Party (PS) members formally elected a successor to Secretary General Francois Hollande last November 20.

Background

There has not been a Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand won a second term in 1988.

Last year, the party's candidate, Segolène Royal (PS) was defeated by centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP). But at least she made the second round of the elections. Our presidential election is in two rounds: first round featuring candidates of a variety of political parties; second round features the top 2 candidates in the first round (unless the person has received majority vote by that time).

The PS did worse in 2002 elections when it failed to even meet the second round. Candidate Lionel Jospin (PS) placed third and far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen (FN) advanced to the second round to face Jacques Chirac (UMP). And that's why Chirac won his second term easily. :lol:

Since this upset, critics claim that the party has lost meaning and sense. There was a need for better leader and leadership. François Hollande, who is also Segolène Royal's estranged partner (since last year) and father of her 4 children, has not been very much admired/respected as secretary general (for the past 11 years). Royal said, after her defeat last year, that she wanted to renew the party to put it in a position the conservative candidate in the next presidential elections in 2012.

Opposition

In the congress in Reims, they members still appear divided as to who should lead them and where.

Royal's main rivals are Martine Aubry, mayor of Lille (author of the 35hr work/week) and Bertrand Delanoe, Paris mayor and prominent party member. Ok, so they're not exactly "new" but old timers in politics. :)

Although their broad proposals for the new party line look extremely similar, none of them really see eye-to-eye. Mr Delanoe has recently caused uproar by declaring himself to be in favour of free markets. Ms Royal, who initially suggested an alliance with the centre-right Modem party, has now started to edge more to the left, and has insisted that economic liberalism and socialism are incompatible. "The mood today is quite depressed," he says. "I mean a lot of people think the Socialist Party [PS] won't change anything. They think that if the PS was leading the state at the moment they'd do exactly the same thing as the right-wing is doing. Maybe the speeches would be different but the facts would be the same." (source)

There are people who are happy about their bickering and infighting. The extreme left parties. Olivier Besancenot (Communist Revolutionary League, LCR) even polled better than Royal last month as the most credible opposition to President Sarkozy.

The Vote

So the members gathered and placed their votes (2 rounds system too). Delanoe finally called the members to vote for Aubry. The battle is now between two females. And the winner is...

Martine Aubry

...but only by a handful of votes. Which leads to another problem at hand.


Demand for vote re-run

French ex-presidential candidate Segolene Royal is contesting the results of a vote to choose the leader of the French Socialist opposition.

Martine Aubry, a former minister and current mayor of Lille, won the vote by a razor-thin margin of 42 votes. Ms Aubry is best known as the architect of the 35-hour work week. Supporters of Ms Royal said there had been irregularities and demanded a re-run of the vote next week, raising the prospect of more party in-fighting.

The party has been divided over whether to move toward the political centre or hold to traditional leftist beliefs.

Ms Aubry, 58, won 50.02% in a second ballot of party members. Ms Royal scored 49.98%. Ms Royal's lawyer, Jean Pierre Mignard, said the result was "contested and questionable".

"I am not going to take this," Ms Royal told AFP news agency.

But Ms Aubry rejected her proposal to hold a new vote. She will be the first female to head the French Socialists.

Ms Aubry has said she wants to reform the party while also upholding its "leftist values".

Ms Royal has been accused of seeking to transform the party into her own personal electoral machine, says the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby in Paris.

Supporters had hoped she could reform the party and bring it towards the centre, but critics, especially among the party's old guard, have accused her of being politically inconsistent.

The voting took place after last weekend's annual party congress - that was meant to back a single candidate - ended in disarray, with top party members failing to reach consensus on a new leader.
France's media have said the Socialists showed themselves at the Reims convention to be "ungovernable".

Story from BBC NEWS:
BBC NEWS | Europe | Royal demands French vote re-run
 

Bjarki

Registered Member
#2
Looks like the social-democrats are in retreat everywhere in western-europe. Partly due to bad leadership, partly, I guess, also due to its inability to formulate a new message in these troubled times. Left voters turn to more radical opposition towards capitalism and neo-liberalism, while their moderates fall back on more conservative ideas and strong and trustworthy leadership.

I guess the next few years will be dominated by moderate rightwing politicians, who due to the current crisis will likely opt for a more 'socialist' course, while staying true to its non-idealistic, realistic approach to matters.
 

ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
#3
I have read a couple of months ago that there is indeed a pattern of trouble for major left parties in Europe right now. That's why they were hoping for some good news, like maybe in Germany's coming major elections.

I'd like to see the direction the new PS would take but first they'll have to settle the leadership issue. I wonder if they'll think of splitting the party in the end (with Aubry and Royal heading their respective militants). Either way, it'll just give an advantage to UMP and to Besancenot. Speaking of him, even if he's an extreme lefty, I do find him more credible as a leader than Royal. I understand the results from the poll.
 

Bjarki

Registered Member
#4
I'd like to see the direction the new PS would take but first they'll have to settle the leadership issue. I wonder if they'll think of splitting the party in the end (with Aubry and Royal heading their respective militants). Either way, it'll just give an advantage to UMP and to Besancenot. Speaking of him, even if he's an extreme lefty, I do find him more credible as a leader than Royal. I understand the results from the poll.
The communists have always had great leaders capable of excellent leadership. But on the other hand, they never had a real challenge. Even if they joined the government like in the thirties, it would be a left one. The social-democrats generally have to work together with center or rightwing parties, so they need to strive for a compromise and can't fall back on a rigid ideology. So its leaders soon get the label of being opportunistic, untrustworthy, weak, cowardice, etc.
Their only strong point is their moderate policy which attracts enough voters in times of peace and prosperity, but as soon as the economic tide worsens or civil strives emerge, they are the first to lose voters to either extreme left wing parties or the populist right.

I think in the recent years the political arena in Europa has been especially virulent and extreme. I think the threat of the cold war for long silenced these extremist tendencies, people then wanted peace and a stable (non-risk taking) government. Now people vote increasingly on smaller parties, which makes it increasingly hard to form governments based on a majority. And even when they succeed, they still have to face a very strong opposition of both left and right parties.
 

Sim

Registered Member
#5
I'm not sure Social Democrats across Europe are that bad off ... assuming the economic crisis worsens, and we'll see a genuine recession the next two years, social democratic ideas may soon be en vogue again. Especially since the "neo-liberal" mainstream of the past decade is discredited and proven to be an illusion after the failure of American banks and the stock markets.

And I'm not sure that voting for stable centrist parties in the past was due to the Cold War; at least in Germany, it's more a domestic, internal problem -- sociologists found that classic social milieus are decomposing, which used to be the strongholds of the two major parties: Fewer and fewer employees and workers are members in unions, while fewer and fewer people go to church and identify with Christian faith. Due to this development, the number of swing voters with no particular party affiliation is growing. At first, that was a problem especially for the Social Dems in Germany (SPD), but the conservative CDU/CSU is struck by it as well, if just a little later -- in the past three elections in Germany, from 1998 to 2005, they scored three of their worst results ever since 1953.

Maybe the French socialists seem "ungovernable" at the moment, but it's still a while to the next elections. Once they have sorted out their leadership problem, they still have enough time to organize an effective campaign in 2012 -- and may very well win, if the economic crisis creates grave social problems.
 

Bjarki

Registered Member
#6
I'm not sure Social Democrats across Europe are that bad off ... assuming the economic crisis worsens, and we'll see a genuine recession the next two years, social democratic ideas may soon be en vogue again. Especially since the "neo-liberal" mainstream of the past decade is discredited and proven to be an illusion after the failure of American banks and the stock markets.
That is probably true for Germany and France as well.
Neo-liberalism or marxism isn't an issue in Dutch politics, never has been either. The right wing is pretty moderate and the left wing party of 'SP' gets votes for its 'ethical' points of view (let's share things!), I don't think anyone sees them as any real alternative when it comes to formulating a cohesive and effective economic policy. There's much more trust in the CDA and VVD's approach: a tough policy build on personal sacrifice. A sense that we must pull through this together. That's typically Dutch I guess :)

We currently have a S-D as minister of finance (Wouter Bos), who hasn't been too succesful in dealing with the crisis thus far. Confidence in him grew in the early stages when he injected lots of capital into the banks. But it's been dwindling since now that the banks refuse to spend the money on new loans for investments into the economy. So, it's more likely the handling of the crisis will be considered a job for the conservatives.

And I'm not sure that voting for stable centrist parties in the past was due to the Cold War; at least in Germany, it's more a domestic, internal problem -- sociologists found that classic social milieus are decomposing, which used to be the strongholds of the two major parties: Fewer and fewer employees and workers are members in unions, while fewer and fewer people go to church and identify with Christian faith. Due to this development, the number of swing voters with no particular party affiliation is growing. At first, that was a problem especially for the Social Dems in Germany (SPD), but the conservative CDU/CSU is struck by it as well, if just a little later -- in the past three elections in Germany, from 1998 to 2005, they scored three of their worst results ever since 1953.
That is true.
The CDA over here is still doing well though, they get about -0.5 seat every election, but that's still enough to remain the biggest party. I don't know where their new voters come from, probably from the 'peacekeepers' and perhaps also from the muslim immigrants.
Same goes for the Labour-parties. The SP is very popular, not amongs the working class, but amongst students and the formally-catholic inhabitants of the countryside (who still hold dear to charity and helping eachother out). The PvdA cannot fall back on this ideological advantage, but its collapse is almost solely due to its catastrophic approach of the integration-debate.
 
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ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
#7
Just an update about the nomination:


"The party's national council is now examining the results, and is due to formally declare a winner on Tuesday. Ms Royal has warned she will not accept validation of the poll by the council, which reportedly has a pro-Aubry majority."

Ugh, so if the council formally declares Aubry the winner tomorrow, what will Royal possibly do? Resign from the party?

Anyway, I've always wondered how the economic crisis affects trends. In the US we see it was beneficial to Obama but it could simply be because of his expertise in the field. I do remember reading before that it tends to favorise the right because people seek conservative policies or leadership during crunch times. Either way, it's not beneficial to PS right now because they have neither.
 

Kazmarov

For a Free Scotland
#8
The French Socialist party seems to be in much the same woes as Canada's Liberal Party. In a time of unparalleled economic hardship that saw the US elect both a Democratic president and increase majorities in both houses of Congress, the Conservative party gained a healthy amount of seats. Why? Bad leadership, and a poor message. The Conservatives can win elections as long as they don't go nutty with tax cuts and start slashing social services- and they don't have the social agenda that's shipwrecked the GOP in much of the country.

The Socialists either need to get a seriously charismatic leader or lurch to the center and bump the Conservatives to the right- which would probably be a bad place to be given the economic climate.

Germany's elections will be an interesting perspective in terms of ideology- I think the UK's upcoming slaughterfest will mostly be due to Gordon Brown's massive unpopularity, rather than left versus right.
 

ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
#9
And another update: The Socialist party has declared Martine Aubry as winner. The investigation by the party's national council not only confirmed her victory but also found out that she had a "greater" margin of wins (from 42 to 102).
Some of the papers speculated a possible formal split but last time I saw Royal she was just holding on and will use her almost 50% pull within the Socialist Party to exert her influence on the party's direction/mission, which would be one of the problems for new secretary general Aubry: not only dealing with external but internal oppositional force, at a time when reformation and regrouping is needed.
 

Sim

Registered Member
#10
@ysabel:

What do you think personally about this outcome? Do you prefer Aubry or Royal? And who do you think is better suited to lead the party?

I also remember having read a newcomer, a rather young guy from the extreme left wing of the party, was expected to score a success d'estime and it would be crucial for the new leader to pull him on her/his side. What happened to him (I forgot his name)?