Speed Reads

left on life support

France's once-dominant Socialist Party is a shadow of its former self

As a trio of right-wing candidates jockey for the chance to challenge incumbent centrist President Emmanuel Macron in the upcoming French presidential election, the country's once-dominant left is barely hanging on.

Dr. Sylvain Catherine, a French citizen and finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, tweeted Monday that "[f]or the French left, the goal is survival. Macron leads the polls followed by three right-wing candidates."

Those right-wing candidates include the unapologetically reactionary newcomer, Éric Zemmour; Marine Le Pen, whose far-right National Rally party is attempting to appeal to more moderate voters; and Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for France's center-right Republican party.

The Socialist Party, which held the presidency from 1981 to 1995 and again from 2012 to 2017, is a shadow of its former self. Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo is currently polling at between 2 and 7 percent.

The difference between two and seven is massive. German outlet Deutsche Welle explains that, after each election, "the French state reimburses the candidates who won at least 5 percent of the votes half of their campaign costs," which enables candidates to run "without the fear of being saddled with debts."

Communist Party candidate Philippe Poutou and Green Party candidate Yannick Jadot also straddle the 5 percent threshold, while left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon sits comfortably in fifth place at around 10 percent.

Hugo Drochon, a professor of political theory at the University of Nottingham, told Al Jazeera that Macron, who took office in 2017, is "reshuffling the political life around a new divide between the center and the extremes, hurting traditional parties both on the left and the right."

In the first round of the 2017 election, the Socialist Party barely maintained its claim on public funds, finishing in fifth place with 6.36 percent of the vote. The party won 28.63 percent in the first round of the 2012 election and 25.87 percent in the first round of the 2007 election.