France’s Political Parties, a Class Act

We have two students blogging on France this semester, and both had an interesting take on the French party system, so I decided to post both!   Here is the first blog on France’s parties…


Chambord, a castle in France: Have things really changed since then? 2011 Photo courtesy of our student guest blogger.

Political parties in France began around the time of the French Revolution with a division between the elite, who wanted a constitutional monarchy, and the revolutionaries, who wanted a republic. These days, a class divide is still evident in the political parties with the “droite” or “gauche” (right or left) tendencies towards conservatism or reform and progress.  France uses a run-off electoral system, leaving room for a multiparty system but essentially having two strong parties.

On the far left is the Parti Communiste Français (PCF), making up 4.3% of the seats in the Assemblé Nationale  (National Assembly) by gaining 2.28% of the vote in 2007. Their ideology is based on Marx and they want to nationalize businesses and have government control of the economy. Right now, they are working on reforming France’s capitalist system. Unfortunately for them, they have lost popularity over the years due in part to a decline in their working class, most of whom are foreigners who don’t have the right to vote.

The Parti Socialiste (PS), one of the two main parties, falls on the gauche end of the spectrum but isn’t quite as extreme as the PCF. They are all about reducing social inequalities and ameliorating work conditions. They are not communist as they respect ownership of private property and want a lesser degree of government intervention in society and the economy. PS holds 186 seats in the National Assembly, making up 24.7% of the house. They received 42.26% of the vote in 2007 and are a popular party for those who are stereotypically less elite. Thus, they represent more the working class population, historically speaking.

More in the center, with 1.3% of seats in the National Assembly and winning a whopping 1.6% of the vote, is the Parti Radical de Gauche (PRG). They are a center-left party who believes in radicalism and social liberalism (read more here). They promote individual freedom and private property ownership, much like the PS. Here are more extreme leftists from the lower classes.

The Nouveau Centre (NC) is a center-left party holding 2.4% of seats in the house and winning 2.1% of the votes in 2007. They are a fairly new party, having been created in 2007 with a break from l’Union pour la Démocratie Française. They lean toward more social, liberal, and European values placing them more on the droite. The NC is a more business-class party, again adding evidence to the class divide between parties.

Further to the droite, with the majority in the National Assembly and a president in office, is l’Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). This party is Christian democrat with a liberal conservative ideology. They hold 313 seats in the National Assembly, making up 39.5% of the house and a solid majority. In the 2007 election, they had 46.36% of the vote. As liberal conservatives, they accept intervention of the state in order to help businesses, but otherwise believe in laissez-faire economics. Members of this party generally fall on the elite side of the class cleavage and wish to protect their status.

The parties described above do not cover all these existing parties in France, but they are the strongest parties in the National Assembly to date. Despite this multitude of parties, evidence of class cleavages still exists between and within the droite-gauche divide. Will France ever overcome such differences? Perhaps if the communists win…

References

Edmiston, William F. & Annie Duménil. La France Contemporaine, Fourth Edition. 2010. HeinleCengage Learning: Boston.

Inter-Parliamentary Union, France. <http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2113_E.htm > Accessed 5 March 2012.

Parties and Elections in Europe: France. <http://www.parties-and-elections.de/france.html> Accessed 5 March 2012.

Politics Abroad. “Radical Party of the Left.” Feb. 23, 2012. <http://www.politicsabroad.com/country-index/france/political-parties/radical-party-of-the-left> Accessed 5 March 2012.

Psephos. France 2007 Legislative Election. <http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/f/france/franceleg2007.txt> Accessed 5 March 2012.

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