The once-dominant French Socialist Party is now a shadow of its former self

As a trio of right-wing candidates attempt to challenge centrist incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in France’s upcoming presidential election, the country’s once-dominant left is barely holding its own.

Dr. Sylvain Catherine, French citizen and professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, tweeted Monday that “[f]or the French left, the goal is survival. Macron leads the polls followed by three right-wing candidates.”

These right-wing candidates include staunchly reactionary newcomer Éric Zemmour; Marine Le Pen, whose far-right National Rally party is trying to appeal to more moderate voters; and Valérie Pécresse, candidate for the French centre-right Republican Party.

The Socialist Party, which held the presidency from 1981 to 1995 and then from 2012 to 2017, is now only a shadow of itself. Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo currently votes between 2 and 7%.

The difference between two and seven is huge. German release Deutsche Welle explains that after each election, “the French State reimburses candidates who have obtained at least 5% of the vote half of their campaign costs”, which allows candidates to present themselves “without fear of being burdened with debt” .

Communist Party candidate Philippe Poutou and Green Party candidate Yannick Jadot also straddle the 5% threshold, while left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon sits comfortably in fifth place at around 10%.

Hugo Drochon, professor of political theory at the University of Nottingham, said AlJazeera that Macron, who took office in 2017, is “reshaping political life around a new divide between the center and the extremes, hurting traditional parties on both left and right”.

In the first round of the 2017 elections, the Socialist Party barely maintained its claim to public funds, finishing in fifth place with 6.36% of the vote. The party won 28.63% in the first round of the 2012 elections and 25.87% in the first round of the 2007 elections.

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