In the presidential elections of 2017, the French Socialist Party (PS) appeared on the brink of the abyss. Five years later, it has fallen to the bottom and few believe it will ever make it out of there in its original form. The catastrophic result in the elections this Sunday of the socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo, who according to the first projections barely reaches 2% of the votes, confirms the progressive decline of a formation that only five years ago still occupied the Elysee with François Hollande and that now he has not even been able to outvote minor candidates such as the communist Fabien Roussel or the ruralist Jean Lassalle.
“I know how disappointed you are tonight, and together we will draw all the consequences objectively,” Hidalgo promised the dozens of militants who went to the small restaurant in the southeast of Paris chosen by the PS to follow the electoral results – a first sign of Great results were not expected. A look of disappointment swept the small room, which fell silent at the magnitude of the defeat. He only came out of the stupor when Hidalgo quickly appeared to acknowledge some dismal results that, however, he assured would not make him give up. “We never lower our arms, I never lower my arms,” he promised to applause, yes, quite sheepish.
Neither in the field of the traditional right, the one that until five years ago alternated in power with the socialists, was the atmosphere much more lively. The candidate of The Republicans (LR), Valérie Pécresse, who came to believe she was capable of defeating Emmanuel Macron, did not achieve any of her objectives: neither going to the second round nor, at least, surpassing the ultra candidate Éric in votes. Zemmor. She remains to be seen if she even manages to exceed the 5% necessary for her party to recover campaign expenses. The candidate, who proclaimed when she was elected in the internal primaries that “the right is back”, must now avoid a hemorrhage of militants and voters -both towards macronismo and towards the hardest right, from where Zemmour has not stopped courting to prominent members of LR—that leads its formation to a bleeding process like the one already undergoing by the PS, which according to the French press, signed its “death certificate” on Sunday night.
“This result is obviously a personal and collective disappointment. I assume all my share of responsibility for this defeat, ”said Pécresse before his militants.
The results of this Sunday confirm a worrying trajectory of failures for the right, which has governed more years than any other formation in the Fifth Republic. After the defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy, who was seeking his re-election, at the hands of the socialist François Hollande in 2012, five years later the one who seemed to be the favorite for the Elysee, the conservative François Fillon, did not even manage to qualify for the second round.
An unprecedented catastrophe
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An unprecedented catastrophe until then, but now it has worsened, just as it has happened in the socialist house. With the aggravating circumstance that the Republicans now have to fight on two fronts: on the one hand, macronismo, with that mantra of “neither left nor right”, could attract even more the moderate wing of the party. He already did it in 2017, when he managed to add to his ranks heavyweights such as Bruno Le Maire, a candidate for the conservative primaries, but who has ended up as Minister of Economy during the entire first term of Macron and is, today, a A convinced Macronist, like the current Minister of the Interior and former member of LR, Gérald Darmanin. Sarkozy, who remains a conservative figurehead, has maintained a resounding silence despite Pécresse’s attempts to win his explicit support.
But the traditional right is now also struggling to prevent a hemorrhage from its more conservative flank. Although his defeat could also limit his appeal, Zemmour has not hesitated to publicly state his intention to cannibalize Pécresse’s party to form what he calls the new French right. An appeal that could seduce party heavyweights like Éric Ciotti, who challenged Pécresse for the Republican nomination and who during that internal campaign already openly advocated approaching Zemmour’s postulates. On election night, Ciotti distanced himself from Pécresse and refused to give a voting slogan for the second round, while the candidate stated that she would vote for Macron.
While the right digests the feared blow, but harder than expected, the socialist left, to which the polls already predicted the disastrous result, assured that it will quickly get down to work to rebuild the party and the divided French left.
“We will be there, the republican and European, social and environmentalist left, the real left, the one that has always allowed social progress in our country,” Hidalgo asserted. “We will rebuild it strong, creative, popular, open to unions, to the social movement and to the generosity of all those who commit themselves”, promised the unsuccessful candidate between shouts of “Au boulot! Au boulot!” (Let’s work!) of some militants and leaders who now look at the legislative elections as a last chance to prevent the entire house of the left from collapsing and being left without a voice for another five years.
In the homework notebook there is also what to do with a party that seems exhausted in its current form. Sunday’s “historic defeat” means that “the PS closes a page in its history,” declared the party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure. For the mayor of Nantes and one of Hidalgo’s campaign spokesmen, Mathieu Klein, it is not taboo to talk about a new stage. “It is evident that a profound refoundation will be necessary. Our political history has already known several episodes, ”he told EL PAÍS. “The socialist ideal is still very much alive, but a new political organization is needed that knows how to serve society. The PS in its current form must be transformed.”