Saturday, June 23, 2007

Power vs. Parity

The parity movement was pushed primarily by feminists of the left. In essence it was an attempt by reformers to use the power of the state to oblige the parties to reform themselves. It hasn't worked particularly well, for reasons discussed here. In the second Fillon government, however, women wield real power, despite the continued under-representation of women in the Chamber. Four key ministries--interior, justice, economy, and higher education--are presided over by women. None is prominently identified with "women's issues."

Rebuilding the Socialist Party

The National Council of the Socialist Party meets in Paris today to consider the party's future. Ségolène Royal will not participate. She will run against the party leadership as she did last year, counting on her personal popularity among the expanded rank-and-file to prevail against the hard core of éléphants, fédérations, and vieux routiers. Although two polls (see articles here and here) suggest that the broader electorate prefers either Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Bertrand Delanoë, Royal has chosen to play the role of young, nimble, and dynamic David against the old, sclerotic, ponderous Goliath, personified by her ex-compagnon, whom she has cast in the role of villain. She has even repudiated parts of her own presidential platform, as if to accuse the party, which saddled her with positions she did not share, of attempting to transform a gazelle into an elephant.

There is no shortage of reform proposals, each airier and vaguer than the next. Essentially, three broad options are mooted: 1) the PS should go "social-democratic"; 2) the PS should become a "party of resistance"; 3) the PS should continue to equivocate about the choice between 1) and 2), as if these were the only genuine options, in the hope of erecting a tent broad enough to accommodate disaffected centrists without alienating the more militant leftist rump.

I will have more to say about each of these options over the next few days. Meanwhile, there are two interesting analyses of the legislative elections to consider, one by the demographer Hervé Le Bras, the other by the geographer Jacques Lévy. Le Bras, confirming CEVIPOF analyses cited here previously in regard to the presidential election, suggests that the PS is losing ground in its traditional working-class bastions and picking up support in areas where Bayrou's MoDem party did well in the first round. Lévy reinforces this conjunctural analysis with a diagnosis of a structural shift in the geographic composition of the PS vote over the past 25 years.