In the wake of their defeat, the French socialist leaders have wasted no time in staking their claims in the battle for control of a party that is now in disarray.
François Hollande insisted that as general secretary it was he who embodied the legitimacy of the party, saying that defeated candidate Ségolene Royal would campaign in parliamentary elections alongside other party members. His line was in headlong confrontation with that of his partner and rival Royal.
In her speech to loyal supporters last night, she laid out a clear claim to take the leadership of the movement for herself. “What we began together we will continue together,” she said. “You can count on me to carry on with the renewal of the left and the search for new input from beyond our present boundaries. That’s the condition for future victories.”
But while Royal said she wanted to take responsibility for the future direction of the party, it remains to be seen whether the party wants her. She fought a very solitary campaign, frequently announcing policy without consulting senior party members, and in doing so irked her rivals. And her lack of mastery on policy detail left many wondering whether she was the right person to take the party forward.
Former minister of the economy Dominique Strauss Kahn said the left had failed to modernise, implicitly criticising the coherence of Royal’s strategy. His rival Laurent Fabius called for a return to traditional leftwing values. The sight of the so-called elephants of the party already jostling for position didn’t please Royal’s supporters – who called for the leadership to stay with a younger generation of activists.
Saturday’s strategy meeting ahead of next months parliamentary elections is likely to be lively – Royal is believed to want Hollande’s post of General Secretary for herself.