Is this the end of the French Socialist Party?

By OLIVIA HAAS

After the scandals concerning François Fillion and Marine Le Pen, it is now the socialist party’s turn to be front page news after the French Presidential elections. French newspapers are announcing the end of the Socialist Party. We may ask, is this an exaggeration of the press or is the Party truly breaking up?

Socialist and revolutionary thought are a core part of French history. The origins of socialism date back to the Philosophes des Lumières and the French Revolution. Ever since then, political life in France has been characterised by socialist beliefs. Among others, figures like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx have inspired movements like the May 1968 strikes. Nevertheless, the socialist dream is fading in France, as is the Socialist Party.

The instability of the PS (Parti Socialiste) is not a new phenomenon. In the 2008, following the presidential elections, the party was rocked by the discovery of electoral fraud. Already pretty wobbly, the PS took some time to recover. Nonetheless, they managed to win the 2012 elections and François Hollande became the French President. However, this only delayed the disintegration of the party – not prevent it.

François Hollande’s presidency was not a successful one. On the 21st of June 2016, Odoxa published a survey showing that only 16% of the French population considered François Hollande to a good president. Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister at the time, was not doing much better with only 24% of the population satisfied with this performance. On the 1st of December, the French president announced that he would not be running in the 2017 elections. Many interpreted this as a final attempt for the Socialist party to protect their reputation. Instead, Manuel Valls decided to run, leading to his resignation as Prime Minister. The primaries led to the victory of Benoit Hamon, creating further turmoil within the party.

What has been described as the final blow to the socialist party was still to come. On the 29th of March, Manuel Valls announced his intention to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the upcoming elections. This has led to outrage within the party. During the primaries, Manuel Valls has vowed to support whoever won, emphasising the importance of a united party. His decision is a betrayal to his colleague Benoit Hamon as well as to his entire party.  Furthermore, since he has announced his intentions, other deputies have followed in his footsteps. The Socialist argues that his vote is purely strategic. He believes that Emmanuel Macron is the only candidate can stop the Front National from winning the elections. Others have interpreted his acts as a way of saving his own skin before the breakup of the party.

In any case, Manuel Valls decision will certainly affect the party. Whether the media are looking for fresh blood or not, there is no denying the fragile state the Socialist Party finds itself in today.

**Editors’ note: this article was written before the elections but remained an interesting read nonetheless.

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