Can Hamon save the French Socialists?

France's Socialist Party has chosen Benoît Hamon as its presidential candidate. The former education minister won the runoff vote against ex-prime minister Manuel Valls. Rather than uniting the left as they were meant to do the primaries have widened the rifts, commentators observe, with some voicing hope that a pan-European left-wing movement will form.

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Le Point (FR) /

Socialist primaries did not fulfil their goal

The primaries did not unite the French left despite all the hopes that they would, Le Point concludes:

“More than in any previous campaign, nothing has gone as planned. Sooner or later Emmanuel Macron will have to present a real programme, which will leave him more open to criticism than he has been in the past. Whether he likes it or not, the election of Benoît Hamon puts him firmly in the leftist camp and no longer beyond the traditional divisions, where he feels so at ease. This is the whole paradox of these left-wing primaries. Introduced after the electoral rout in 2002 to avoid multiple candidacies, the result has been to place three candidates on the starting line, Macron, Hamon and Melenchon, each of whom stands to gain roughly ten percent of the vote according to current opinion polls. That is, a result diametrically opposed to what the primaries were supposed to achieve.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Schulz should lend Hamon a helping hand

The German SPD's candidate Schulz for chancellor should put European interests above national interests and support Hamon's proposals, taz demands:

“The suspension of the three-percent-of GDP debt limit and a pan-European minimum wage. The German Social Democrats now have the chance to help out their French counterpart and promise to support both demands if Schulz becomes chancellor. … So far it has been silent on this. And no doubt it will stay that way because when push comes to shove Schulz isn't a passionate European but a representative of the German Europe. … But standardising only those policies that benefit Germany at the European level won't work in the long term. … If Marine Le Pen wins a surprise victory in the second round of the French elections, Schulz will talk of a 'disgrace for Europe' and spread a cloak of silence over how the SPD contributed to her victory.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Anything possible right up to election day

The unexpected success of Benoît Hamon and Emmanuel Macron is making the race for the French presidency entirely unpredictable, Der Standard writes:

“Whether it's due to the Hollande fiasco or the Trump election, French politics has been caught up in a whirlwind and the political analysts are just wondering whether to talk of an 'implosion' or an 'explosion'. Under these circumstances it seems impossible to say who will move into the Elysée Palace and steer France's fate for the next five years. The years of political build-up no longer count here - everything will depend on the prevailing political constellation in May. Anything is possible, even outcomes that had been unthinkable up to now. For example a victory for the Front National candidate Marine Le Pen.”

Libération (FR) /

A romantic leap into the void

Hamon's presidential candidacy is positively thrilling, Libération believes:

“This is the romantic dimension of politics. The reason why people talk about it in the bistro, the cafeteria or over breakfast at home on Sundays: it's unpredictable. Let's be humble and admit it. The small community of commentators could never have imagined, barely two months ago, that Benoît Hamon would become the favourite of the left-wing primaries. ... Politics is first and foremost about daring to take a leap into the void without knowing if there's a mattress there to break your fall. By calling for a 'desirable' rather than a reasonable future, Benoît Hamon was not making any sort of wager or adapting his message to any poll. He was making a leap into the void.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The left has little chance of success

Neither the Socialist Benoît Hamon nor Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the leftist movement La France Insoumise will play a leading role in the presidential elections, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung predicts:

“Benoît Hamon won the Socialist primaries - a victory for left-wing populism. He wallows in left-wing utopias and dreams of a brave new world where people work less and less as a result of automation and live from a state-financed basic income. To his left Jean-Luc Mélenchon has called for a 'citizens' insurrection' and wants to usher in a 'Sixth Republic'. With pipe dreams like these the two are better suited to televised debates than to governing a country. And neither stands a chance of making it into the second round.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

The left must face up to populism

The Socialists will only have a chance if they set aside their aversion to populist and nationalist policies, economist Jacques Sapir writes in Le Figaro:

“The rise of populism is also the reaction of a growing section of the population - and in France of the 'young' population aged between 18 and 35 - to the disaster of neo-liberalism and globalisation. It's this context that has invalidated social-democratic thinking in several countries, France included of course. We are now seeing the electoral repercussions of this invalidation, which could lead to the Socialist Party all but disappearing in the first round of the presidential election. The left will only be able to reconstruct itself if it fully accepts this populist transition and stops erecting imaginary barriers between social progress and the nation.”

El País (ES) /

Hamon would lead PS into difficult territory

The Socialists will emerge from the primaries weaker than before, El País fears:

“The French Socialist Party's chances of staying in power have been further reduced by the primaries held to select its presidential candidate. No two left-wing movements are more irreconcilable than those represented by each of the two candidates in the second round of the vote on Sunday. … But the most worrying aspect is the future. If Hamon emerges as the winner he will lead the Socialists into territory already occupied by others on his left. … Reaffirming traditional values would mean moving in the direction of Corbyn, the British Labour leader who is showing more and more understanding for Brexit; standing by the isolationists and opponents of globalisation is something for extremists. Are these the alternatives for the true French left?”

Newsweek Polska (PL) /

Too radical for France

The Socialists won't get very far with Hamon as their candidate, Newsweek Polska believes:

“Hamon is very popular with the left wing of the party. At the same time he is very unpopular with the majority of the French people - precisely because he's so radical. According to the polls, if he were to run Hamon would come fifth in the presidential election this spring. And we're talking about the party that emerged victorious from every election just a short time ago. ... The participation in these left-wing and ecologist primaries was 25 times lower than it was in the 2012 presidential elections. That's typical of today's Europe, where political parties are increasingly losing their 'catch-all party' character. As a result all it takes is a small group of hotheads for their candidate to win out.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Socialists no longer stand a chance

The results of the first round of the leftist primaries are nothing short of a disaster for the French Socialists, La Libre Belgique is convinced :

“This first round reflected the state of the Socialist Party itself: it lacked both soul and ambition. Many of the party's militants and sympathisers stayed at home, and with good reason. Only a large popular turnout could have given the winner a certain legitimacy and lent dynamism to the movement. But that didn't happen. The results are devastating. The French Socialist Party will emerge weaker than ever before from this contest. Those who were tempted by the calls of [independent candidate] Emmanuel Macron or [leader of the leftist movement La France Insoumise] Jean-Luc Mélenchon no longer have any reason to hesitate.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Macron the real winner

The independent candidate Emmanuel Macron will benefit most if Hamon defeats ex-prime minister Valls, the Financial Times believes:

“He may now scoop up many of the centre-left votes that would otherwise have gone to his rival. He may also have a clearer path to the second round if Mr Hamon succeeds in winning back some of the blue-collar voters who have defected to the National Front. However, Mr Macron still faces an uphill battle, given his political inexperience and lack of a party base. ... He may win endorsement from senior figures in the Socialist party, but this will be a mixed blessing if they also seek to influence his agenda. He needs to start setting out his policies in detail in order to maintain his independence.”

Causeur (FR) /

At long last no shift to the right

Hamon's candidacy is good for France even though he has little chance of winning, author Jérôme Leroy writes in Causeur:

“It simply shows that while it has not abandoned its leftist stance, the left is renewing itself and not hesitating to buck the trend of what is presented on a daily basis as a rightist France. ... How reassuring it was for once to hear a candidate define France not just in terms of security, identity, and jobs as paramount values, or of the need for 'moral rearmament'. ... Hated by the right and centre and annoying to those further to the left than he is, Benoît Hamon is in fact infinitely more innovative than Macron. ... He has brought a breath of fresh air to French politics. And that was no mean feat given the suffocating and desperate political context of our times.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

The party was defeated long ago

Regardless of which of the two candidates wins in the second round the Socialist Party lost long ago, Le Figaro is convinced:

“Of course neither a victory for Benoît Hamon or Manuel Valls will solve any of the Socialist Party's problems. Both men have nothing to look forward to but humiliating elimination in the first round of the presidential elections. ... Withdrawing or getting kicked out is the unpleasant dilemma one of the two men will face this Sunday, five years after the victory of François Hollande. The president said back then: 'Change Now!' Today it's more like: 'Elimination Now!'”

Libération (FR) /

Leftist ideals far from obsolete

The French Socialists deserve one last chance, Libération believes:

“Must the Socialist Party be written off? ... Perhaps it's inevitable, perhaps the death knell of the last Socialists has sounded. Nevertheless the left hasn't entirely given up hope, and it should think twice before resigning itself to its fate. In one month, if the winning candidate fails to convince his listeners and falls into disrepute, then it will be time to write the old left's obituary. In the meantime we should still give it a chance - not the party apparatus, but the ideal. That of the left, which still has a role to play.”

ABC (ES) /

Primaries are for weaklings

When a party has to elect its candidate this shows that it lacks a proper leader, ABC criticises:

“The French Socialists are very much mistaken if they believe that they can solve their identity crisis and ideological model problems by holding primaries to decide who becomes their presidential candidate. The main reason why there is no natural candidate is that President Hollande has decided not to run for re-election in view of incontestable evidence that he would be humiliated by the voters. ... Far from being a symptom of a healthy democracy the Socialist primaries are a clear indication of the contrary: French socialism is so gravely ill that neither the exercise of power nor political activity at the party's core have been able to produce a clear leader.”