Presidential election in France | Two behemoths on the verge of extinction?

(Paris) After their miserable score in the first round of the presidential election, the future of the Socialist Party and the Les Républicains party seems uncertain to say the least…

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Jean-Christophe Laurence
The Press

A slap, a crash, a tragedy… What term should be used to describe the double rout of the Socialist Party (PS) and the Les Républicains (LR) party on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election in France?

The 2017 election had already announced difficult years for these two behemoths of French politics, one on the left and the other on the right. But five years later, their decline is confirmed, to the point where some evoke their possible disappearance.

The PS candidate, Anne Hidalgo, has a historically low score of 1.7%, even worse than the starving 6% of her colleague Benoît Hamon five years ago.

For her part, the LR candidate Valérie Pécresse obtains only a meager result of 4.8%, at the end of a failed campaign from start to finish.

These results, below the 5% threshold, mean that the two political parties will not be reimbursed for their campaign expenses.

A particularly hard blow for LR, which had invested no less than 7 million euros to try to avoid the sinking. Proof of this distress: the party has even just launched a “pécressothon” to bail out the coffers.

“I need your emergency assistance by May 15 to complete the financing of this presidential campaign. It is about the survival of the Republicans, and beyond that, the survival of the Republican right, ”said Valérie Pécresse on Thursday, who has also taken on personal debt of 5 million euros for this first round. A call for donations that we would never have imagined for the once so powerful party of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.


Valérie Pécresse, of the Les Républicains party

This simultaneous collapse is however in the natural order of things, believes Thomas Guenolé. For the political scientist, author of a recent essay on sovereignism published by Que sais-je?, this kind of eclipse is part of the inevitable evolution of political ecosystems, which are changing at the same pace as societies.

“It happens to large parties what happens to large stars that shine very brightly and suddenly become a dwarf star,” he explains. These big parties become dwarf parties when they no longer have anything to do or say in relation to the fundamentals on which they were formed and when they are out of step with where the country is. »

Thomas Guénolé cites among others the example of the French Radical Party, which was responsible for the law on secularism in 1905 (still in force) and which has today become a “totally marginal” party. With time everything goes away…

Implosion or redefinition?

But be careful not to write obituaries too quickly for the PS and LR.

Political scientist Jean Petaux recalls that these two formations are still well rooted in the local landscape in France, with hundreds of elected officials at regional, departmental and municipal levels, which makes their disappearance “unlikely” in the short term.

We will have to see, moreover, how they are doing in the next legislative elections, scheduled for June 12 and 19.

Logic would like their slide to be confirmed, this election being often compared to a “third round” of the presidential election.

If necessary, nothing excludes a pure and simple implosion of the PS (currently 28 seats out of 577) and a bursting of LR (101 seats out of 577) with complete recomposition of the political landscape on the right. The more radical elected officials of LR could thus be tempted to join the new party of Éric Zemmour, while others, more “Macron compatible”, could join La République en Marche.

A success in the legislative elections, even relative, could on the other hand mark the beginning of a rebirth for one or the other. Jean Petaux points out that the LR party still has a few “stars” capable of taking over the helm, unlike the PS, which has no big successors. “The question, in the case of the PS, is whether the engine is not permanently stalled,” he summarizes.

This reconstruction will, in any case, go through a serious examination of conscience, believes Bruno Cautrès. Because at LR, as at the PS, no one seems to have understood that the French political landscape had changed and that their programs corresponded less and less to the expectations of French society.

” They [ces deux partis] must imperatively reform heavily, concludes this researcher at the CNRS, also a teacher at Sciences Po. They must do the intellectual work that they did not do during the five years of the Macron five-year term, that is to say redefine a concepts, keywords and vocabulary that characterize them. And I’m not talking about very general words like ecology, democracy or citizenship, which basically don’t mean anything anymore because everyone today says that to themselves.

“In short, they finally have to say something clear about who they are. Once we know that, French political life will be much better…”

Republicans in dates


General Charles de Gaulle founded the Rally of the French People (RPF).


Creation of the Union for the New Republic (UNR) from the ashes of the RPF. Charles de Gaulle was elected President of the Republic, and re-elected in 1965.


New name change. The Gaullist movement, stemming from the UNR, founded the Union of Democrats for the Republic (UDR).


Jacques Chirac creates the Rally for the Republic (RPR) in order to “renovate” the UDR. He was elected in 1995, then re-elected in 2002. The RPR was dissolved in favor of the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement).


Nicolas Sarkozy seizes the party, wins the presidential election in 2007 and renames the party. “The Republicans” (LR) were born.


LR candidate Valérie Pécresse arrives 5and from 1is round with 4.8% of the vote.

The Socialist Party in dates


Creation of the Socialist Party


Creation of the new Socialist Party, of which François Mitterrand becomes “first secretary” two years later. He was elected President of the Republic in 1981, and re-elected in 1988.


François Hollande becomes the 2and President of the Socialist Republic of the Vand Republic after Mitterrand, with 51% of the vote.


François Hollande does not represent himself. His successor Benoît Hamon crashed with 6% of the vote. Emmanuel Macron, former Minister of the Economy under Hollande, founded the Republic on the Move party and acceded to the Élysée.


Anne Hidalgo obtains 1.7% of the votes for the PS in the first round of the presidential election.

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