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French Socialists hope for comeback at national conference

Olivier Faure at the party conference in Aubervilliers, just ouside Paris
Olivier Faure at the party conference in Aubervilliers, just ouside Paris Thomas Samson / AFP

The new leader of France's Socialist Party promised an "opposition as resolute as it is responsible" to President Emmanuel Macron at its national conference this weekend. But, after five years in power, the party faces an identity crisis, having lost voters and members to its right and to its left.


Olivier Faure, who formally took office at the conference after winning a vote of members, laid into Macron's government in a one-and-a-half-hour speech and declared his support for rail workers and students fighting its policies.

But he has rejected alliances with parties to the Socialists' left and, promising to "invent a new software" for the party, held out the hope that the party can rise again after last year's electoral setbacks.

To this end he intends to launch an online platform to garner new ideas from members and supporters.

Their number is substantially reduced, however.

The Socialist vote declined drastically in last year's elections and it lost 224 seats in parliament.

Since then, presidential candidate Benoît Hamon has quit the party to set up his own movement, taking a substantial part of the Socialists' youth wing with him.

A number of former ministers and MPs have left to join Macron's Republic on the Move, some of them rewarded with cabinet posts.

And many voters have defected to Jean-Luc Mélenchon's hard-left France Unbowed, whose MPs have had a higher profile in opposing Macron than the Socialists.

The party also faces financial problems due to the loss of income from state subsidies caused by the collapse in its vote means and had to sell its Paris headquarters.

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