French Socialists pick new leaders after election disaster

France's Socialist Party elected a new, streamlined leadership following its humiliation in last month's parliamentary elections. The new body will be charged with drawing up a roadmap for party reform.

Acting Socialist Party first secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadélis
Acting Socialist Party first secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadélis AFP

The new "collegial" leadership - which should share responsibility equally among its members - consists of 28 members, with a core group of 14, seven men and seven women.

Two names were added to the slate proposed by former first secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadélis - who resigned after the election but remains at his post until a replacement is chosen at a national conference in September - following complaints that he had excluded supporters of former presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, a left-winger who quit the party this month.

Hamon supporter Régis Juanico, who has remained a party member, was finally added to the list with Senator Frédérique Espagnac, a supporter of former president François Hollande, providing gender balance.

Cambadélis had earlier welcomed Hamon's departure, along with that of former prime minister Manuel Valls who backed Emmanuel Macron's successful presidential bid, telling Le Monde newspaper that it "offered an opportunity to define a clear line".

As well as the core group, the leaders of the party's parliamentary groups, its treasurer, four spokespeople and four members charged with coordinating will sit on the body.

Redefining party

Its first meeting will be on 17 July and it will have to draw up proposals to revamp the party to put to a party conference in September.

The party is in disarray after the elections, which saw Hamon win just 6.3 percent in the presidential first round and the Socialist representation in parliament reduced from 255 to 31.

With the loss in state subsidy that means, the new leadership will also have to lay off party workers and may have to give up some of its premises.

The Socialists' first challenge is to define their attitude to President Emmanuel Macron's government and his Republic on the Move [LREM] party.

Cambadélis sees their political future as "between the frontal opposition of [the hard-left] France Unbowed and total subordination to LREM".

But at present France Unbowed's 17 newly elected MPs have upstaged the Socialists, with their leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, telling Prime Minister Edouard Philippe "We represent the alternative to the world you represent", while 23 Socialists abstained on the vote of confidence in the government.

Valls, who now sits in the LREM parliamentary group along with several other former Socialists, on Saturday tweeted, "On the one hand with the PS 'neither Macron nor Mélenchon', the line that led to disaster, on the other optimism, will and moderation at #LaConventionLREM", referring to the Macron movement's one-day conference, which took place the same day.

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