French Socialists fight over party leadership race

The French Socialist Party held the second round of its leadership race on Thursday (19 January). The two candidates, Olivier Faure and Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, are both claiming victory amidst mutual accusations of irregularities in the voting process.

On Friday morning, the outgoing leadership declared Faure’s triumph, with 50.8% votes in favour. This figure is contested by his opponent Mayer-Rossignol, who claimed in a press release that he won with 50.5% of the votes.

The gap between the two candidates is extremely narrow and represents less than 400 votes.

Irregularities were observed and condemned by both sides, who blamed each other. During the first round of the ballot, Socialist Party members living abroad – who number a few hundred – that voted online reported malfunctions.

National reports of other irregularities – electoral officials being expelled from polling stations, or ballot boxes being moved to closed rooms out of sight – followed.

Mayer-Rossignol asked to convene the committee responsible for settling such disputes. On Thursday, the committee overturned some results of the first round that had been initially proclaimed.

Corinne Narassiguin, a party executive supporting Faure, said that the national leadership race organisation commission was convened at 4.45am, and that Mayer-Rossignol’s list members “refused to examine the results and preferred to ask for an hour and a half for the rescheduling of the commission, before leaving”, implying that the results were proclaimed unilaterally by the outgoing leadership.

In a message sent to supporters shortly before the results were announced, Faure’s camp accused his opponents of an “attempt to disrupt our common home” and claimed to have gathered about 54% of the votes.

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and former presidential candidate, condemned Faure’s leadership at a press conference on Friday afternoon. According to her, “if we did that when we held elections in our cities, we would be in prison”.

Other party officials have demanded clarity.

The unity of the Socialist Party, so often celebrated by both candidates, might be more complicated than expected.

As the outgoing leadership declared Faure’s victory, either one of the two must acknowledge defeat and accept the result.

If they do not, the conciliation commission must reach a commonly accepted solution, such as cancelling the votes in some of the more contested polling stations. If neither campaign agrees to a solution, the case may end up in court.


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