How worthwhile are France's primaries?

The French will select the conservative presidential candidate in a primary at the end of November. Ex-prime minister Alain Juppé and former president Nicolas Sarkozy are the main contenders for the post. The Socialists plan to hold a vote in January 2017. The primaries will only deepen the political divides, some commentators write. Others, however, see them as indispensable.

Open/close all quotes
Les Echos (FR) /

Primaries divide the parties

The primaries only widen the political rifts in France, Les Echos complains:

“Instead of leading step by step to a consensus, the primaries are a mechanism for dividing [political groups]. ... It's no coincidence that the primaries were introduced in France by a party led at the time by a certain François Hollande. Back then the Socialist Party was unable to put in place the progressive leadership filtering process that all other major European parties manage to organise more or less successfully. ... No doubt this, in turn, is due to what is in itself a destructive electoral system. The two rounds of voting revive old rivalries like the wind blowing on flames. They encourage the emergence of three or four different currents [within a party] which have a hard time working together after the election and make it impossible to forge a broad coalition.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Preliminaries are indispensable

The primaries are necessary even if they aren't perfect, communications consultant Arnaud Bouthéon writes in Le Figaro:

“The candidates are the offshoot of a necessary but imperfect selection process. Let's remember that it was given to us by the current leader of the [Socialist] camp. ... The candidates form a group which is representative of our state of mind, our system, our mental blocks, our fears and our dreams. They possess wide networks and strong egos, and yet their position is particularly precarious. We should give them our attention and accompany them in this promotional exercise which they are obliged to go through with. They are both the content and the container, the medium and the message. ... The primaries are unavoidable, but they must be carried out with a sense of dignity.”