Half-Satisfying Victory for Harlem Désir, Likely Head of the PS

Harlem Désir, future head of the PS, during a rally.
Photo: Flickr/ Parti Socialiste; Mathieu Delmestre

According to the polls released on October 12th, Harlem Désir will soon become the head of the Parti Socialiste (PS), with the support of 68.42% of the socialist militants supporters and assuming an electoral turn out of about 50%.  The result, though a success, was considerably lower than expected. Members of Désir’s staff had predicted a 90% victory. Disregarding the disappointing outcome of the vote, Désir stated on Friday morning  “with a 68% majority, this vote is, above all, a vote of unity and a measure of responsibility.”

Désir had been designated as the “official” candidate of the current party motion, thus supported by Martine Aubry, former First Secretary of the Party. Each candidate represents a motion and an electoral platform for which the members of the party vote. Aubry and most party leaders, including Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and most of his ministers, supported Désir’s motion. As a result, the vote within the PS was considered as the first feedback to the government’s policy from the members of the party, while opponents quickly denounced a “fastened election process.”

With a significant turnout at the polls and a massive support from the entire of party, Désir’s voting score is clearly a disappointment. Moreover, the second motion, at 13.27% of votes representing the radical wing of the PS, was more successful than expected. Their candidate, Emmanuel Maurel, declared on October 12th that he would come forth as a candidate for the second round of the elections, though his defeat is anticipated. There was also a third motion that gathered 11.81% of the votes. It was represented by Stéphane Hessel, who took part in the resistance movements of WWII, and wrote in 2010 an essay entitled Indignez-vous or Time for Outrage! The essay inspired the Spanish movement of “Indignados” and also contributed to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. Hessel has never been a major figure in the party and therefore did not have substantial support from any official in the party.

The representative Jérôme Guedj, supporter of Maurel’s motion, immediately drew the following conclusion: “adding up the four minority motions, a third of the party does not subscribe to the motion of the majority.” On the contrary, alluding to the early criticisms against the democratic value of the vote, David Assouline, spokesman for the head of the PS, declared that, “before the vote, they accused us of jamming the vote. One can see at the end that the PS is a living party, with a debate between different policies, but the final direction is that of the majority”.

Désir’s election was a half-satisfying achievement for the government, who needed a fully united PS to support it. One PS leader even called the election a “failure.” According to him “one cannot have 95% of the votes of the leaders of the party and get only 68% of the population’s support.”

It is clear though that this election will not suffer the situation of the previous one, in which Aubry opposed Segolène Royal, former candidate of the 2007 elections and François Hollande’s ex-partner. Both candidates accused each other of rigging the elections, tearing apart the party.

However, the party is most often divided over important issues, such as the European Budgetary Pact. There are different schools of thought within the party  forming separate sub-sections. With less than 70% of the vote, Désir’s new administration of the party will have to leave some room for the other motions and its majority will be considerably lessened in the party. Negotiations will have already begun.

There is no doubt though that Désir will be chosen as First Secretary of the PS. He will win the second round on October 18th and will be designated head of the Party during the party’s Congress in Toulouse from October 26th – 28th. The PS managed to avoid major confrontations in their ranks and Désir will easily run the party he has already been leading as an acting interim Secretary. Nevertheless, even though the transition will be relatively smooth, the socialist government is already facing the criticism of the radical section of its electorate. The left wing of the PS has already started to join the extreme left party in its criticism of Hollande’s beginning as President.

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  1. […] as a landslide victory, however, this second round only confirmed the disappointment of the first round and raises many questions for the future of the […]

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