New Fracture in the French Socialist Party

Marie-Noëlle Lienemann (left) with members of the Socialist Party at pension reform protests in Paris in 2010. (Wikimedia Commons)

Marie-Noëlle Lienemann (left) with members of the Socialist Party at pension reform protests in Paris in 2010. (Wikimedia Commons)

Emmanuel Maurel and Marie-Noëlle Lienemann announced during a press conference on October 19 their departure from the French Socialist Party (PS) and the subsequent formation of a new political movement known as the Alternative for a Republican, Ecologist, and Socialist Program (APRÈS). Maurel, a deputy to the European Parliament, and Lienemann, a French senator, are seeking to unite the divided French left into a “new popular front for the twenty-first century.”

Marie-Noëlle Lienemann told Reuters, "We brought together 650 individuals in four days, including 50 elected members of executives from PS. We will have more than a thousand next week and we are committed to creating a new and common political formation.” Among the 650 signatories for the new movement are two former parliamentarians, Gaëtan Gorce and Christophe Premat, as well as several mayors including Marc Vuillemot of La Seyne.

Additionally, the Republican and Citizen Movement (MRC), a minor French left-wing party, has left the PS-led Socialist Group in the French National Assembly to join APRÈS. Maurel and Lienemann are hopeful of a rapid expansion in membership and have announced their intention to ally with Unsubmissive France (LFI) for the upcoming 2019 European Parliamentary elections. An initial congress has been scheduled for early 2019 in order to formally launch APRÈS as a political party and possibly announce initial alliances.

Friday’s press conference was largely overshadowed by the news of searches by the French police at the home of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, LFI party head, and LFI headquarters over possible irregularities in his campaign accounts for the 2017 French presidential election. When questioned by reporters, Maurel and Lienemann reaffirmed their commitment to working with LFI for European elections, responding that the project “is bigger than a single person.

Another such obstacle to APRÈS’ goal to unite French left-wing parties is Benoît Hamon, the presidential candidate for the PS in 2017 who subsequently left the party in 2017 to form Generation.s, a center-left party. Hamon is distancing his party from Mélenchon. Hamon opposes Mélenchon’s posturing the upcoming European elections as a vote against French president Emmanuel Macron. Instead, Generation.s has called for a vote for values and made public its intentions to ally with the French Communist Party (PCF) instead of Mélenchon’s LFI for 2019 European elections.

This schism is another setback for the severely weakened French Socialist Party. The party, which has been a leading political party in France for the last century, received merely 6.4 percent of the vote in the first round of the 2017 French presidential election. Rémi Lefebvre, a professor of political science at the University of Lille, wrote in a publication explaining why he left PS to join APRÈS: “The PS is dead, not socialism.” Along with establishment parties across Europe, the PS has seen a decline in support as voters have shifted to newly established, often more populist parties, resulting in a political realignment the consequences of which we have yet to see.