The infamous policy called the Devaquet Reform during the first cohabitation by Chirac's then-party Rally for the Republic (RPR) parliamentary majority in 1986. The reform proposed a restriction on the open access of universities, and an increase in fees to encourage competitiveness in education. This caused a student revolt, general strikes and the accidental death of a student by the police (Bryson 1987). This unpopular neoliberal policy helped to reinforce anti-Americanism, and the poor handling of the situation showed the perils of cohabitation.
In the PS itself, 1988 party leader Pierre Mauroy carried out an internal "modernization" (Parti-socialiste. fr 2006) of ideology that put the construction of the European Union as a priority, and also created a new weekly to better disseminate information about their policies and ideology. The PS also took into account recent global events like the fall of Communism, and realized the need to define and decide their opinions and ideologies based on these events. There was a change in the PS' attitude towards neoliberal economic policies that the Right was pushing for.
In 1988, Mitterrand proposed a more moderate programme with neither nationalization, nor privatizations. Hence, we can see that the PS was trying to change its image to a more flexible party that moved with the times. The use of alliances, flexible policies and a revision in ideology were the strategies of the PS to improve the image of their party and win at elections. However, these strategies did not work in prolonging their rule because they neglected the size of the support base of their own party and not as a coalition.
This resulted in their defeat in the 1993 legislative elections. 1993 Defeat The PS suffered a crushing loss to the RPR in the elections, with only 53 seats, compared to 242 seats for the RPR. This was easily worst electoral result since the 1960s. The loss of credibility of the PS was due to several mistakes during Mitterrand's rule: 1) scandals and internal rivalry 2) failure of economic policy, and 3) failure of the left alliance.
The PS was weakened by the intense internal rivalry between Jospin and Laurent Fabius as to who would succeed Mitterrand as party leader. It was further weakened by several corruption scandals in 1992. Pierre Bi?? ri?? govoy, prime minister in 1992, committed suicide in 1993 after it was revealed that he had connections with huge interest-free loans and insider-trading. This was a psychological blow to the PS, adding to its loss of its credibility.
Mitterrand's push for more justice in the form of greater government spending to create full employment, combined with high inflation of the 1980s, had no lasting effect on unemployment because of "incurable supply-side constraints" (Thomsen 2001). Finally, it was the questionable attempt of the PS to rebuild an alliance of a "plural left" with ex-Communists, ecologists, those disillusioned by Mitterrand years, and those who dissented from some Socialist policy (Bell 2004) that made the PS too volatile.
The PS has been trying to pick itself up from the disastrous events of 1993 until today. The new strategy of the PS was to modernize Socialism to understand and respond to globalisation and the market, that is, to end state involvement in the competitive sector of the economy (Bell 2004), because "redistribution has had its day both as instrument and ideology" (Strauss-Kahn 2002, as cited in Bell 2004). The image of the PS had to be improved, and the internal factionalism had to be suppressed.
Finally, to address their reduced support base, the PS also needed to capture the 'lost' working class and 'popular' vote by moving more to the left and create a large unified party of the left to respond to the UMP coalition. In the 1995 presidential elections, Jospin performed hopefully, coming out top in the first ballot but lost the presidency to Chirac in the second ballot with a margin of 5. 3%, due to the changing wants of the electorate (Dow 1999). The PS experienced a rebound in 1997 when Chirac dissolved the National Assembly.
The PS were ready with the left alliance and Lionel Jospin was elected PM and the PS obtained a record 255 seats in the National Assembly. Even though Jospin reduced the workweek from 39 to 35 hours, this was seen as a concession to convince the French to swallow their neoliberal reforms (Thomsen 2001). It spent this time in parliament implementing neoliberal policies – unpopular under former president Giscard – such as privatization, deregulation (Smith 2007) and tax breaks to increase businesses (Goldhammer 2007).
Their new socialist policy of "rigid conservatism" improved economic growth and reduced unemployment. In this respect, the plural left government of Jospin from 1997-2002 was rather effective (Smith 2007). Its restrictionist immigration policy however, proved to not be popular with labour unions (Haus 1999). Frani?? ois Hollande replaced Jospin as party leader in 1997 and he decided to renew socialist doctrine and improve practices and political structures in the PS (Parti-socialiste. fr 2006).
The PS also saw a change in its electorate (younger, more females, more educated), which was probably due to its change of policies. The change in the PS' ideology was most evident when they elected Si?? goli?? ne Royal as their presidential candidate in the 2007 elections. This turned out to be a good change in ideology, since Royal proved to be popular in the elections, addressing youth unemployment and family-friendly policies. Even though she lost the presidency to Sarkozy with 47% of the vote, the PS gained 186 seats, 46 more than in the previous election in 2002.
Since the 1990s, France has been struggling with the following problems: increased insecurity, economic "pri?? cariti?? ", and difficulty in the integration of second-generation immigrants. Sarkozy is "hated by the oppressed and all progressives throughout France" for his openly hard-line "law and order" policy (Goldstein 2005). The UMP has showed that they cannot handle the violence through repression, and Hollande seized on this opportunity to assert that the PS must prove itself to be "more credible for public order and tranquility than the Right" (Hugues & Lerougetel 2005).
The economy is still shaky, but the movement of the PS to the centre shows the conversion of the PS to economic neoliberalism, which will make the economy more competitive. Voters will find it even more difficult now to differentiate between the Socialist and Gaullist parties because of the convergence of economic and social policies (Szarka 1997, as cited in Dow 1999). As such, the PS can try to attract more voters by appealing to other factors, like the image of their party. Lastly, fourth generation immigrants and older were offended at being told that their presence in regional government "risks driving away voters" (Goldhammer 07).
The PS wants to capture this electorate but is reluctant to cede power. They need to change their strategies. However, there are still some problems in the PS like internal rivalry, an obsession with the left alliance, and a high abstention rate. They also need to address the problems that caused its defeat in 2002. Even though Hollande has been said to have "forged party unity in the notoriously fractious PS" (Crumley, 2004), in 2005 there were campaigns both for and against the European Treaty within the PS.
Finally, the PS needs to replace the 'plural left' coalition with a new alliance strategy, and also needs to mobilize its supporters (Bell 2004). Some promising signs are the "stunning wins" in the regional and European elections, with the Socialist coalition coming in second with 218 out of 785 seats. Conclusion Like Shakespeare's rose, the PS has changed its approach but has remained true to its fundamental value of egalitarianism, a third of the core values of France, even while re-innovating and reconstructing itself.
This is important since globalization is taking place at a rapid pace. The PS has already taken steps to embrace neoliberal economic policies. However, it needs to change its programme to be more rigorous and risk-taking in order to lift France out of its economic pit. It also has to change itself from within in order to win elections again; it cannot keep relying on the mistakes of the Right. The Left cannot just keep alternating governments like they have in the past; they have to provide an alternative.
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