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Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal
French Socialists in Fratricidal warThe election of the French socialist party secretary is coming dangerously close to near civil war. After the withdrawal from the competition of Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, and the elimination of Benoît Hamon in the first round , the second round last Friday did not result in a clear denomination between the two female contenders. Martine Aubry, the 58-year-old mayor of Lille, obtained 67 413 votes (50.02%),
If the conflict was not bitter enough as it is, Royal’s supporters went on to claim that there had been voting irregularities, notably in Miss Aubry's fiefdom in Lille. Her side countered that there were irregularities in Royal strongholds in southern France and overseas territories.
This fratricidal feud is a real catastrophe for the party, which has not won a presidential election for two decades and whose last big parliamentary victory was in 1997. Instead of trying to be a viable oposing force to the centre right, the socialists leaders are simply tearing each other appart. The French seem to be tired of these farcical flounderings, and the socialist party risks loosing all its credibility as well as any chance it had of being back in government in the near future. This internal conflict is nothing less than political suicide…
Now the Socialists just have to hope that the two women will be able to forget their mutual loathing in order to find a compromise. However, will any of them have a real legitimacy at the end? Aubry, the daughter of the former president of the European commission, Jacques Delors, is not a popular figure. As labour minister in the last Socialist government, she pioneered the law that reduced the French working week to 35 hours. This law is now blamed for greatly undermining French productivity. Royal on the other hand, is probably the most hated person among senior members of the party. They dislike her evangelical style and even launched a “Stop Ségo” campaign.
In the end, the salvation could perhaps come from another figure, who absented himself from the battle. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, is believed to have an eye on the 2012 presidency. Maybe he will be the one able to give some credibility back to this drifting party…Although he has also enjoyed his share of scandals.