It was more than a victory that the Socialist Party scored today; it was a political cleansing. A whole new generation of Socialists has come to office, as Bernard Girard notes. Of the 291 Socialist deputies, moreover, 108 are women. Two elephants were eliminated: Jack Lang and Ségolène Royal. All the ministers were elected, however. On the right, the older generation suffered defeats as well: Bayrou and Alliot-Marie are gone. Arun Kapil has a full rundown.
Two things trouble me. First, I'm not sure what the Socialist Party did to deserve such a victory. Its program remains vague, its leadership untested, its commitments confused. Its victory might be seen as an expression of revulsion against the Sarkozy years--except Sarkozy himself did better than expected in the presidential. The new leadership of the UMP is hardly inspiring, and this crushing defeat opens the way for a challenge to Copé by Fillon and/or Juppé. With the Socialists now in control at every level of government, they would benefit from a renewal on the right; otherwise all the blame for failure is theirs.u
Second, the party system seems out of kilter. The FN enjoys strong support but has only 2 seats. Similarly, the extreme left is underrepresented in the Assembly. The Greens, by contrast, are overrepresented. And the center, alas, has all but disappeared. Ayrault has spoken of the need for a more balanced exercise of power between legislature and presidency. Such a change will require a lot of work on the Assembly internally. The imbalance is institutionalized and reflected in budgets, office space, and staffing. It won't be easy to change.
Finally, a word about Bayrou and Royal. Both deserved better than they got. To be sure, Royal's bitter speech was graceless, and she probably sealed her own fate by making a poor tactical choice, but I find it hard to believe that Falorni couldn't have been dissuaded from his challenge if the will had been there at the national level. And clearly Bayrou could have been saved as a gesture of gratitude and respect, which he deserves. But politics, as they say, is not beanbag.