Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Political Renewal

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.


Robert said...

Like you, I think the French wonder what exactly Hollande has in mind for the next five years. This said, they elected the guy and have now logically given him a parliament just pink enough to pass his legislation -- nothing more, nothing less. Doesn't sound like a resounding mandate to me.

As for Royal and the "will" thing: Are you saying the PS leadership orchestrated her defeat?

I'm sure some senior party figures are glad to see her bite the dust.
However, that whole business has also turned into a PR disaster for a president who didn't have any margin for error the day he took office. If that's the way Hollande or Aubry go about eliminating an intra-party rival, I'd be very worried for the socialists'future.

Then again, as the Germans say, "Feind, Erzfeind, Parteifreund:" There are enemies, there are archenemies and then, there are fellow party members.

Anonymous said...

The problem is less the party system being out of kilter than the 'mode de scrutin'. Significant over- and under-representation is one of the 'effets pervers' of the two-round majoritarian system. A 'dose de proportionel' would partially rectify this. But the only solution for small parties is to forge electoral deals with the PS or UMP. EELV did this to its benefit (though at 18 deputies it is still somewhat underrepresented relative to its veritable electoral weight).