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Text by Thibault LIEURADE , Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2008-11-09

On Nov. 6, French Socialists voted to pick one of six rival motions ahead of the party’s congress in Reims. We followed voters in a Paris party branch hand former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal a wafer-thin lead.

Watch our report on the Socialist Party's internal debate in the 11th district of Paris.


Contradicting fears of apathy among the Socialist Party’s rank and file, militants turned out in force on Nov. 6 for the party’s internal vote ahead of the key Congress in Reims. Here in the 4th district of Paris, the mood is upbeat.


“Turnout so far has been high,” exclaims the local branch secretary, Gilles Marron.


The so-called “20-euro militants,” who joined the Socialist Party to back Segolene Royal’s presidential bid in 2007 after membership fees had been slashed, have returned tonight with a 50 euro cheque.


 “A number of party members who joined us in 2006 and then failed to renew their membership the next year have come back to settle their payments for the last two years,” says Marron.


The vote’s big loser is Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë. Here in the 4th district, a 5-minute-walk away from the spectacular Paris town hall, Delanoë is a mere three ballots ahead of rival Ségolène Royal.


For Mireille Perret-Gentil, the choice is clear: “I’m an unquestioning supporter of Ségolène, whose campaign carries more ideas and values.”


Across France, the motion led by Ségolène Royal secured only a narrow lead over its two closest competitors, making a compromise solution in Reims all but inevitable. Local militants, however, are not overly worried.


Among these is Roland Dumas, a former foreign affairs minister under the late president François Mitterrand: “Once results come in and each motion is weighed up, it’ll be easier to set aside the squabbling and strike a deal. Indeed, I understand agreements are already on the cards”


Indeed, the usual wheeling and dealing is to be expected at the summit in Reims, where supporters of Ségolène Royal are wary of a united front against the former presidential candidate.


Royal’s strong showing in this district, previously thought to be a stronghold of Delanoë, has much to do with the presence of the district’s mayor Dominique Bertinotti, who played a key role in the 2007 presidential campaign. “I am confident that militants will choose the path of renovation and that this congress will be a useful one,” she says, stressing her support for the motion led by Ms Royal.


Yet, with a mere four percentage points separating the first three motions, Royal and her rivals know they must reach an understanding. While socialist militants still have faith in the party’s potential for renewal, they will not stand the squabbles between would-be leaders.


Having joined the party in 1942, Albert Sernissi is the local branch’s most senior member. His warning speaks for all: “We’ll make sure they hear us. I won’t shy away from speaking out loud.”


The next episode in the socialist saga takes place in Reims, the capital of Champagne, in mid-November.

Date created : 2008-11-09