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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Au PS, la grande noce avant la primaire

by Lina Sankari

The banquet before the Socialist Party primary

Translated Wednesday 1 June 2011, by Richard Pond and reviewed by Henry Crapo

In Paris on Saturday the Socialists held their national convention to discuss their programme. It was an opportunity to publicise the work they had done and to begin choosing their candidate for the presidential election.

The Socialist Party leadership has indisputably won some time - and consequently so has Martine Aubry, its leader or First Secretary. The emphasis on the party’s "project" has allowed her to show, on the one hand, that she has put the party back to work, and on the other hand, that she has managed, in working out the party programme, to find a semblance of balance between the different factions or tendencies. So much so that, on Saturday, at the national convention, which took place at the Freyssinet centre in Paris, the programme was adopted unanimously - enough to reassure, at least for a time, those who are calling for unity.

Beyond the "public rally" atmosphere that prevailed, the Socialist Party was eager to present the image of group unity: the presence of Pierre Mauroy (a former prime minister under François Mitterrand) and of Lionel Jospin (who had been conspicuous by his absence from Socialist work since November 2006) thus had symbolic value.

This weekend saw the end of a long period with four conventions, eight project forums, 130 meetings across France, and 170 amendments drawn up by local affiliates. On an equal footing, the Socialists are now entering the period of primary elections - liable to reignite (beyond debates about ideas) what the leaders detest: conflicts over personalities. "Today it’s the duty of Ségolène Royal, Martine Aubry and François Hollande to propose to us a candidate who won’t come out of the primaries weakened," urged Gérard Collomb, mayor of Lyon. He wants to see an agreement reached between the main factions in order to confer additional legitimacy on the designated candidate. In closing, Martine Aubry said again that she would take up her "responsibilities" in this respect.

Hence the need to recall, as well, that "we have an opponent, it’ll be the rightwing. (...) There will be an opponent much more fearsome which we’ll have to fight against, and that’s fear. (...) And the most important thing today is to become once more the camp of progress and of hope", as Benoît Hamon cried out from the platform, demanding a firm stance with regards to economically liberal institutions and banks at risk, so that these "do not devour us", with socialist governance, if it came about, reproducing the Greek or Spanish model.

Based on wins in local elections, the Socialist Party gave this convention - after the Strauss-Kahn affair - a victorious atmosphere. And Martine Aubry quotes François Mitterrand: "Next spring, France will not just get to see the new season; she will get a meeting with herself."

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