Socialist Party (PS). The Parti Socialiste is France’s major centre-left party. Founded in 1969 as a reorganisation of the earlier French Section of the Worker’s International (SFIO), the PS began as the personal project of Francois Mitterrand, who would later be France’s longest-serving President between 1981 and 1994.
For most of the post-war years and especially after the transition to the Fifth Republic the SFIO found itself subservient to the Communist Party on the left. With trade unions supporting the Communists, a series of dull inspiring leaders, a contradictory mix of Marxist rhetoric combined with cooperation the centre and centre-right led to the SFIO being institutionally weak. An embarrassing 5% of the vote in the 1969 Presidential election was the final nail in the coffin of the SFIO.
Mitterrand, a Machiavellian political manipulator and masterful political strategist succeeded in uniting the left behind his personality, and even got the Communists to back his Presidential ambitions, despite their being the larger party. Mitterrand later won the 1981 Presidential election which he skilfully used to devastate the Communists by removing their anti-system credentials and by forcing them into contradictory positions by, for example, giving them the Defence Ministry while continuing membership of NATO.
After Mitterrand left power the party was left divided, with a series of powerful local barons known as the Elephants vying for power.
The party headed a coalition of left wing parties known as the plural left between 1997 and 2002 during the Presidency of Jacques Chirac. 2002 proved to be a great embarrassment for the party, however, when a highly divided left meant that Prime Minister Jospin failed to reach the second round of the Presidential election after being beaten by the Front National.
During the Chirac and Sarkozy Presidencies the PS was able to benefit from mid-term discontent to take control of much of France’s local and regional government, however, and the party eventually won the 2012 election. As noted above, the Presidency of Francois Hollande has been difficult for the party however, and polls show the party in third to the UMP and FN. Though, after a poor result in 2009, the party may not actually lose any MEPs.
The Socialists will be running in concert with their small ally, the Radical Party of the Left, a social liberal party with some regional strength in the South of France, who the PS does not oppose and treats almost as a faction.
The Socialists are a member party of the Socialists and Democrats. The PS demonstrates below average loyalty to its group at 95.1% loyalty.