Corinne Narassiguin, speaker of the French Socialists, discusses the collapse of her party in the polls and the legacy of Francois Hollande, who has become the most unpopular president in the country's history, on DW.
Only a few days before the first round of voting in the French presidential election, most polls indicate that the Socialist Party of France faces a crushing defeat. The party of Francois Hollande, which came to power in 2012 with 51 percent of the votes in the second round, is polling at just 7.5 percent less than a week before the election.
"We are in a very bad situation, yes it's true," Corinne Narassiguin told DW in an exclusive interview on Conflict Zone. "We are going through a political crisis and we do have to reinvent ourselves. We will have to reinvent ourselves after the elections."
The rise and fall of Hollande who has a meagre 4 percent approval rate and 70 percent dissatisfaction, is a major challenge for the Socialist Party. This election could spell the end for the party, one of two main traditional political forces in France.
Candidates neck to neck and no socialist among them
New political groups have taken a leading role in the French political drama. What many considered the scandalous reemergence of Marine Le Pen's extreme-right Front National has been accompanied by the once unthinkable success of centrist Emmanuel Macron, himself once a Socialist.
Lagging slightly behind is Francois Fillon of the Gaullist conservatives. Although plagued by accusations of corruption, his campaign has somehow managed to keep up with the two upstarts.
The Socialist Party has been the torchbearer of the social democratic project since the merging of socialist groupings in 1969. With an expected outcome of less than 10 percent of the votes for socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, that project looks doomed. As Michel Friedman pointed out to Narassiguin, with such paltry numbers, Hamon is essentially "out of the game... And the president is socialist."
The beginning of the end of France's Socialist Party?
But perhaps the socialist candidate is out of the game precisely because of the socialist president's poor record. During his five years in power, Hollande managed to build opposition in almost every sector of French society. The same-sex marriage law of 2013 brought staunch opposition and massive demonstrations.
With the labor reform of 2016, Hollande guaranteed himself the enmity of trade unions, progressives and the left wing of the socialist party. Up to 70 percent of the electorate opposed the reform and 1.2 million people came out onto the streets. The government rammed the reform through the legislative bodies without a vote, triggering a second wave of outcries. Hollande and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, were accused by their own party colleagues of despotism and betraying the socialist project. Meanwhile, unemployment remained stubbornly high at 10 percent.
Abandoned by central figures
The labor reform may have amounted to the political suicide of the Socialists but Narassiguin insisted that "whoever is the next President will benefit a lot from the reforms that Francois Hollande put in place in France." She likened the reforms to the Agenda 2010 that brought to an end the political life of the German social democrat and erstwhile chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.
Nominally, at least, Socialist Party has been abandoned even by many of its own central figures. Manuel Valls, for instance, one of the architects of the current socialist debacle, has said that he will vote for Mr Macron. In fact, Narassiguin and the party leadership at Solferino 10 have been worried about a mass migration of socialist voters to Macron. "We do have we do have a problem with the left in general, which is very fractured," said Narassiguin.
Yet, the left has found its footing, just not in the Socialist Party. Since late March, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been climbing in the polls and now appears to be within striking distance of Fillon and Macron. The socialists are well aware that Mélenchon is the only hope for the left in a field dominated by conservative and neoliberal politics. But Mélenchon presents a threat to any future reconfiguration of the Socialist Party and Narassiguin questioned the viability of his political project: "If you remove Jean-Luc Mélenchon from his party there's nothing left." But even a popular candidate is more than the Socialist Party has at the moment.