Struggling French Socialists told to 'change or die'

22nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

France's beleaguered Socialists called for a "ceasefire" after a high-profile maverick called for the country's main opposition party to "change or die."

Paris – France's beleaguered Socialists called for a "ceasefire" in their ranks on Tuesday after a high-profile maverick stepped up calls for the country's main opposition party to "change or die."

Torn by infighting after losing its third presidential election in a row in 2007, France's Socialists were plunged into more bitter recriminations after suffering a rout in European elections last month.

On Tuesday the 200-strong Socialist group in the National Assembly adopted a joint text calling for an end to hostilities, as Socialist barons closed ranks around the party's first secretary Martine Aubry.

"Enough is enough. Everyone is free to express themselves and their ambition, but not at the expense of their friends, of our fellow citizens," said the text aimed at a group of mavericks contesting Aubry's leadership.

Chief among them, lawmaker Manuel Valls has led a weeks-long campaign for the party to change its name, hold an open leadership contest, and ditch its "outdated" policies if it is to regain power from President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Defying a threat from Aubry to throw him out of the party, Valls -- a would-be contender to succeed Sarkozy in 2012 -- renewed his attacks in an opinion piece in the Financial Times Tuesday.

"The French Socialist party is at risk of dying out," wrote the deputy, who is mayor of the tough Paris suburb of Evry, accusing the party of failing to adapt their message to the era of globalisation and the market economy.

Several party heavyweights publicly rallied to Aubry's side on Tuesday, from Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe to Segolene Royal, the former presidential candidate and rival for the party leadership.

"I support all Socialists, including Martine Aubry, who are working, who are struggling, who are trying to pick themselves back up," Royal said.

But Valls' outburst has unleashed a free-for-all of attacks on the party.

Socialist former culture minister Jack Lang called the party a "withered tree," while another Socialist deputy, Julien Dray, launched an all-out attack on Aubry, denouncing her "powerlessness and amateurism."

And in one particularly stinging assault, the flamboyant philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, a lifelong left-winger, declared at the weekend that "the Socialist party is dead."

AFP / Expatica

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