Monday, October 17, 2011

Can Aubry Remain Atop the PS?

Will Martine Aubry be able to continue as leader of the Socialist Party after losing badly to François Hollande in the primary? Already Hollande's advisors have been pressing for more representation on the party's leadership councils. The geography of the vote is revealing: Aubry led in only a few départements in the north, her home region. Clearly, of the 2.7 million voters who chose to express an opinion, an incontestable majority favors Hollande and therefore, by implication, a change of direction at the top. Having occupied the post himself, Hollande undoubtedly knows what levers need to be pulled to ensure that his candidacy isn't sabotaged from within (as some say Royal's candidacy was under Hollande's leadership). But he will probably prefer to avoid a frontal assault. He needs the support of the party's left wing, which prefers Aubry, so for symbolic reasons he will probably leave her in place while diluting her influence as much as possible. This shouldn't be too difficult. The rewards are now his to distribute.

A commenter disputed my argument that Hollande would run, and win, in the center by noting that he had pledged to run on the party platform, which is arguably tilted leftward. To my mind, this objection overestimates the role of the platform, as vague as it is, as well as the degree of its "leftish" slant. Perhaps the only real problem in it for Hollande is the promise to return the "early retirement age" (thanks, Kirk, for the correct terminology) to 60. But Hollande has already shown how he is going to finesse this plank by adhering to 41.5 years of contributions as the criterion for full benefits. Sure, the Right will beat him about the head with the contradiction between the party's fixation on age 60 and the fact that Hollande's actual position coincides with Sarkozy's most recent reform. But this won't decide the election. Nor will any other single plank in the platform. Voters mainly want to be convinced that Hollande can fill the role of president (the problem of "incarnation," as Pierre Rosanvallon calls it), and Hollande has already shown how he is going to attack that issue: by presenting himself as a "normal" leader, by implication painting Sarkozy as an aberration--an argument that apparently most voters are prepared to accept, since their rejection of the current president, as reflected in his extraordinarily low approval ratings, cannot be accounted for by his record alone, which has been mediocre but hardly catastrophic.

1 comment:

gregory brown said...

In all sincerity what does the First Secretary's role matter at this point?

Its Holland's party and Mosco is going to be running it for him.