Désir’s Very Expected Parti Socialiste Victory

Harlem Désir, left, new head of the Parti Socialiste listening to the former head, Martine Aubry.
Photo: Flickr.com: Parti Socialiste, Olivier Clément

On Thursday, October 18, members of the Parti Socialiste (PS) voted in the second round of elections to determine the party’s First Secretary. As expected, PS member Harlem Désir won the race with 77.44% of the votes, while his opponent Emmanuel Maurel received 27.56%, according to the latest statistics. In any other election, this margin might have qualified 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 PS.

Désir has been acting as First Secretary on an interim basis for months and had received support of the majority of France’s socialist representatives and of the main figures of the party, including the former Secretary Martine Aubry and current Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. With such overwhelming support from principal party figures, his first round result of just under 70% had been a surprise—especially as  some members of his staff had anticipated winning 90% of the vote.

The first round was shaken up by opponents Emmanuel Maurel and Stéphane Hessel’s scores of 13.27% and 11.81%, respectively. Only 4 PS representatives supported Maurel’s candidature, while Hessel got no real support.

Despite his win, acting as First Secretary for the majority party actually does not guarantee much power for Désir. Indeed, the new party chief will likely have to struggle to find his place and make his voice heard with looming changes in the administration of the PS.

The PS finds itself at a critical moment in which it has to share the seats in its administration, in particular those of the National Council of the party. Instead of 186 seats in this Council (out of 204), Désir’s supporters will have to share 140 places. The smaller sections choosing to make an alliance with Désir will suffer from it. On the other hand, Maurel’s allies will have more room to share.

Désir is well aware of his task.  Speaking after his election, he noted his task among PS representatives is to “get them to agree. This is my duty as a rallying person. And this is what the members wait from me.” The new head of the PS chose to focus on the democratic vision of the results, remarking that “members want a large freedom of debate.”

François Hollande, who was attending the last Europen Summit during the vote, gave a measured opinion. He congratuled Désir for getting “good results” and said, “The score he made is substantial. If he had done more, it would have been suspect. If he had done less, it would have been worrying. He got a good result.”

As he promised during  “Moi president…” speech he made during the presidential debate, Hollande cannot be “the leader of a party”, as long as he’s a president. That’s why he confirmed that, “Harlem Désir is the First Secretary of the PS, a real First Secretary of the PS. He is not a delegate, he is fully a First Secretary and must take the responsibility of this great organization the country needs. This is not the majority, but France, that needs a great PS, which plays its role in the opposition (…) I know that Harlem Désir has all the qualities for that.”

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