Henri Rey, political researcher at SciencePo University
FRANCE 24: What do you make of the current crisis within the French Socialist Party? Is it a simple quarrel between two people or is it a deeper problem?
Henri Rey: This is obviously more than a quarrel between people. Ségolène Royal and Martine Aubry are not alone; they represent two blocs of equal importance. Each candidate wants to modernize the party. However, their modernization plans differ: Martine Aubry would like to modernize the party in continuity with the Epinay Congress of 1971 (when François Mitterand was elected as the First Secretary of the Socialist Party and opened the way for the party to join other left-wing parties). The Royal camp wants a deeper overhaul, a pronounced break from the past policies and traditions.
But the two sides broadly agree on the basic ideology. The Socialist Party blended its doctrines when they agreed on the party’s policy last summer. This convergence of views is relatively new, but it is remarkable. It’s only the left-wing within the Socialist Party, represented by Benoît Hamon, which differs on this point.
The Socialist Party has long complained of a delay on “aggiornamento" (modernizing, bringing up-to-date) practiced by other leftist parties of Europe. The French Socialist Party is now more in tune with the social democracy of the main European countries.
FRANCE 24: Could the Socialist Party split?
HR: I don’t see the party splitting. Regional and local representatives are an important part of the party’s makeup. They need a formal united structure. A split would be suicide for them. It would be a failure for the movement as a whole.
Finally, Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal’s supporter base is very mixed. There are no clear sociological connections between certain segments of society who support Royal or those who support Aubry. The mayor of Lille has supporters from traditional strongholds, particularly in northern France, but she is also popular among some of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s supporters. Ségolène Royal sparked real interest in the urban periphery, among new voters from immigrant background and certain blue-collar categories, but this mobilisation did not last beyond the presidential election. Her electorate also extends to the middle class and the wealthy.