The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog

RSS

Hollande wins

How centrist will the French Socialist candidate be?

The headline in this morning's Le Monde read: "Triomphe de la gauche réaliste" (Triumph of the realist left). That was how France's newspaper of record greeted François Hollande's victory over Martine Aubry in the second and decisive round of yesterday's socialist primary. Hollande won with nearly 57 per cent, on a turnout - remarkable for an election of this sort - of 2,860,000 (an increase of 8 per cent on the 2,661,231 who voted in the first round).

As for Hollande's "realism", it's certainly true that he tacked to the centre against Aubry and the left-wing Arnaud Montebourg in the campaign leading up to the first round of voting. And he belongs to a generation of Socialist politicians scarred by the electoral beating the Socialists took when François Mitterand's government turned to austerity early in 1983, abandoning the Keynesian economic activism of 110 Propositions pour la France, the programme on which Mitterand had run and won two years earlier.

Nevertheless, as I wrote last week, Hollande couldn't ignore the surge of enthusiasm for Montebourg, stoked by his fulminations against globalisation and his calls for much tighter state supervision of the banking sector. And indeed he didn't. Between the first and second rounds, Hollande made a number of public entreaties (especially on financial policy) to Montebourg and his supporters, most of whom would, it was assumed, vote for the more left-leaning Aubry second time around. It seems to have worked: last week, Montebourg endorsed Hollande as the candidate most able to build a winning coalition against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

Hollande has said he won't throw himself into campaigning straight away. For one thing, the organisational apparatus of the PS, of which Aubry is first secretary, needs overhauling. Hollande's first act as presidential candidate is likely to be to attend today's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the police massacre of Algerians demonstrating in Paris.