Socialists open season on party leadership

29th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

LA ROCHELLE, France, Aug 28 (AFP) - France's Socialist Party (PS), the chief opposition to the ruling conservatives, wrapped up a three-day 'université d'été' Sunday with a show of unity but under the shadow of fratricidal bloodletting later in the year.

LA ROCHELLE, France, Aug 28 (AFP) - France's Socialist Party (PS), the chief opposition to the ruling conservatives, wrapped up a three-day 'université d'été' Sunday with a show of unity but under the shadow of fratricidal bloodletting later in the year.

The party's much-criticised leader, first secretary François Hollande, told 1,500 party activists in the western port city of La Rochelle that the party would be in good shape for the 2007 presidential election.

He said it would have a clear and realistic programme for "real change" and not a "catalogue" of promises that would inevitably lead to them being broken.

This was taken as a not-too-subtle dig at former prime minister Laurent Fabius who broke with the party's official line in favour of accepting the European Union constitution in a referendum earler this year.

Although party activists backed a "yes" vote in an internal referendum, in the event most Socialist sympathisers voted against the treaty and in the subsequent feuding Fabius was thrown out of the party leadership.

He has now positioned himself as the champion of the united left and his backers rarely miss an opportunity to attack Hollande for alleged weakness, failures and rightwing tendencies.

Hollande not only has to face attacks from Fabius, who has adopted positions well to the left of those he supported while premier.

A PS pressure group calling itself the New Socialist Party also wants him to go and, like Fabius, is looking forward to what promises to be an exceptionally bitter congress in Le Mans in western France in November.

The platform at La Rochelle was instructive. Loyalists such as former culture and finance ministers Jack Lang and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and former premier Michel Rocard were in the front row. Fabius and another leading Hollande critic Henri Emmanuelli were not.

Hollande assured his largely sympathetic audience that the party would be "present, united and strong" to win the 2007 presidential poll. He had "no fears about party unity" and said there was no place to talk of a split. Anyone who wanted to forget about the need for unity to ensure the victory of the left would be reminded of that need by activists.

The school was an opportunity for other potential PS presidential candidates to stake their claims, notably Strauss-Kahn and to a lesser extent former social affairs minister Martine Aubry, the architect of the 35-hour week.

Hollande said he had noted that some people were interested in being the party's candidate but said no decision would be taken until the second half of 2006.

He seemed anxious to ensure that the Le Mans congress would produce a majority consensus backing what was practically possible, declaring that "the state cannot do everything and cannot be responsible for everything. To be on the left is not a matter of begging the question, it is a promise of results," Hollande said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Socialist, Parti Socialiste, PS, François Hollande, Laurent Fabius, La Rochelle, université d'été, European constitution

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