Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More



Cablegate: Socialist Party Ends Month-Long Decison Process

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

281828Z Nov 05




E.O. 12958: N/A


B. 10
C. 14
D. 17
E. 18
F. 21
G. 25
H. AND 28

1. France's Socialist Party (PS) -- in a convoluted,
fiercely contested, but genuinely democratic process
throughout November -- agreed on a document setting out the
party's policy direction and renewed the membership of its
governing institutions. It also created a "Presidential
Commission" to draft a detailed party platform for the 2007
presidential election and organize the competition for the
party's presidential nomination to be decided by the vote of
party members one year from now. Through the month-long
process just ended, the leadership of the party, and its
127,000 members, found a way to hold together despite barely
containable contending ambitions and factional differences.
They did so in the conviction that, without unity, the PS
would have little chance of winning the 2007 presidential
election, now only 16 months away. This unity seems more
than a temporary agreement to put on a united front; party
members and party leaders across the board seem to have come
to the conclusion that uncontrolled dissension within the PS
risks marginalizing the party, undermining its chances of
alternating in power with the center-right. END SUMMARY.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Centerpiece of Month-Long Decision Process
2. The centerpiece of Socialist Party's (PS's) month-long,
organizational decision process was the party congress in the
city of Le Mans over the week-end of November 18 - 20.
National Secretary Francois Hollande and party number two
Francois Rebsamen succeeded in brokering a text that brought
aboard the party's two principal minority factions. One of
these factions (about 20 percent of party members) consists
of supporters of former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and his
bid for the party's presidential nomination; these party
members, like Fabius, also opposed the proposed EU
Constitution last Spring. The other faction (about 25
percent of party members) consists of supporters of the
reform agenda of the New Socialist Party (NPS), and of no
particular presidential candidate. The majority faction
(about 55 percent of party members) supports party leader
Francois Hollande and the party establishment (in the
establishment faction there are over a half-dozen would-be
presidential candidates, most notably, former Finance
Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn). Party by-laws call for a
party congress every three years; this is the first party
congress since 1990 that has ended in across-the-board
agreement by all party factions on a single policy sttatement
-- or, in PS-speak, "political orientation" or "motion."

Seventy-Fourth Socialist Party Congress
3. Over the week-end of November 18 - 20, about 3000
participants, observers, journalists, and ordinary PS
militants gathered for the PS's 74th Party Congress -- and
the final installment of the party's year-long celebration of
its 100th birthday. (Note: The party was founded in 1905 --
with about 35,000 members -- as the French Section of the
Workers International (SFIO). End Note.) The party congress
was held in the city of Le Mans, in western France, site of
the famed 24-hour automotive endurance race. The well-worn
joke among congress attendees was that listening to three
full days of party speakers was more grueling than anything
that might take place on the race-track right next to the
site of the congress.

Preparing for the Congress
4. On November 9, about 80 percent of the party's current
127,000 members voted in the party's 3,500 "sections" for one
of five competing "motions" (see ref for November 9). The
results of this vote, through a complex proportional system
and further elections in the party's 102 departmental
"federations" (of "sections") determined the 614 delegates to
the party congress in Le Mans.

Business of the Congress
5. These delegates, at the congress, on November 20, voted
into office 204 members of the party's National Council (the
party's "parliament"); the 102 heads of the party's
federations are automatically members of the council, for a
total of 306 council members. For the first time the party
imposed its gender parity policy on itself; the council -- at
least the 204 members elected by congress -- is made up of
equal numbers of men and women. On the evening of November
19, faction leaders and key supporters met late into the
night in a "commission of synthesis" to arrive at an agreed
text for party policy direction -- the "synthesized motion"
in the PS parlance. Once they had agreed to agree, a key
part of the deliberations of this caucus was the factional
composition of the list of National Council members to be
submitted to the vote of the congress delegates the following
morning. The net result is a "unified" "party parliament,"
with each faction represented commensurately with its showing
in the vote by party members on November 9.

Post-Congress Decisions
6. In the week following the congress, PS party members
again voted, on November 23, for the party's First Secretary,
and new federation and section secretaries. (Comment: The
PS's terminology is very revealing of its culture; for
example, the party bosses are called "secretaries" which in
French, unlike in current American usage, strongly connotes a
trusted but subordinate status -- those charged with
faithfully recording and executing the decisions of others,
in this case, the party members. End Comment.) Among the
results of the unity reached at the Le Mans Congress is that
Francois Hollande was unopposed in his bid to remain party
First Secretary. On November 25 the National Council elected
54 members of the party's National Bureau (the party's
"executive branch"); 18 additional National Bureau members
were selected by the federation secretaries from among

12-Member "Presidential Commission"
7. On November 27, Hollande then designated -- after long
and arduous political horse-trading with all the party's
barons -- the members of the party's new 43-member, National
Secretariat, its "inner cabinet." Also on November 27,

Hollande and the party announced the creation of an
unprecedented, 12-member "Presidential Commission" which is
to prepare a detailed party platform for 2007. (The literal
translation of this commission's title is "The Commission on
the Party's Project for 2007.") This commission consists of
three leaders drawn from the NPS, Fabius plus two chief
lieutenants, and six establishment heavyweights (not counting
Hollande and Rebsamen who are attached to it as a sort of
commission secretariat). This group's ostensible mission is
to draft a detailed platform for the party by May 2006. In
fact, it will be overseeing the competition for the party's
presidential nomination -- trying to prevent the rivalries
among party leaders from undermining the party's -- currently
quite low -- credibility with the public at large. The
document agreed to by all factions at the party congress
establishes that the party's 2007 presidential nominee will
be selected by vote of the party members in November 2006.

Comment: Hollande's Triumph
8. Playing on his strength, popularity among rank-and-file
party members -- who see him as a genuinely committed
guarantor of decision processes that ultimately rest on their
votes -- Hollande (and Rebsamen) have managed to pull the
party into one tent. This maximizes the probability of the
party emerging with one single candidate for the 2007
presidential election, now only 16 months away. The need to
project to the French public that the center-left PS is a
credible contender for normally alternating in power with the
center-right (as in other major European democracies) drove
the strategy of Hollande and Rebsamen. All in the party are
well aware that unity is a necessary, if not necessarily
sufficient, precondition for victory in 2007.

Fabius: the Other Big Winner
9. In order to achieve party unity, Hollande and the party
establishment accepted the return to the fold of black sheep
Fabius, who had broken with the democratically established
party position by advocating 'no' to the proposed EU
constitutional treaty. Resentment against Fabius -- for his
allegedly cynical and opportunistic flaunting of party
discipline -- still runs very strong among many party
members. With his re-acceptance into the party fold at Le
Mans and his membership in the Presidential Commission,
Fabius can now continue his quest for the party's
presidential nomination with the credibility of a newly
respectable, party member in good standing. Fabius has the
support of 20 percent of party members; the members of the
NPS faction of the party are as likely to sympathize with
Fabius' more "traditional leftist" stances as with the more
"social democratic" stances of his establishment rivals, such
as Strauss-Kahn. Among many party loyalists however, the
contempt for Fabius remains palpable; from conversations on
the margins of the party congress in Le Mans, it is clear
that many of these party mainstreamers would drop their party
activism, if not membership, should Fabius win the nomination.

A Crowded Field
10. The "unified" PS now turns its attention to what
promises to be twelve months of internal political
trench-fighting for the 2007 nomination. Hollande and
Rebsamen believe that if the party manages this conflict in a
transparent and democratic way, that will stand to the
party's credit in the estimation of the electorate come April
2007. Even within the party establishment, this will not be
easy, given the number of heavyweight contenders. The
dissident Fabius and mainstreamer Strauss-Kahn are currently
the front-runners for the nomination. Should either falter,
however, a range of others -- former Culture Minister Jack
Lang, President of the Poitou-Charentes Region Segolene
Royale, Mayor of Lille Martine Aubry, former Justice Minister
Elizabeth Guigou, Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoe, Former Health
Minister Bernard Koucher (who declared his interest last
week), Hollande himself or former Prime Minister Lionel
Jospin -- would certainly be tempted to break out to head the

A Confusing, Complex, and Democratic Process
11. PS party members are proud to characterize their
organization's culture as one of "debate and democracy." The
month-long process that just ended with a unified party
exhibited all the strengths and weaknesses of the PS's way of
doing things. All decisions were taken or ratified by
genuinely democratic vote of the party members or their duly
elected representatives -- all in a long-established, highly
complex system rife with factional infighting, fierce
intellectual disagreements, intriguing to shape electors'
choices, and competition to outmaneuver rivals. A similar
process, equally confusing, complex and democratic, should, a
year from now, end with the designation of a single candidate
to represent the PS in the 2007 presidential election.

Goal is Normally Alternating in Power
12. Hollande and Rebsamen believe that a unified party, that
remains unified behind a single candidate in 2007, is
absolutely essential if the PS is to remain the center of
gravity of the center-left, in what should be the regular
alternation in power between center-left and center-right
that is the well-established norm in developed democracies.
So far, they have masterfully managed to maintain the unity
of a nearly unmanageably divided party. In so doing, they
have fulfilled a necessary precondition for victory in 2007,
although it is not clear that even this will last. Even if
it does last, it is not at all clear that it will be
sufficient. END COMMENT.
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.