Benoit Payan, the mayor of Marseille, was expected at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday January 28, according to the program of the 80th congress of the Socialist Party. He finally spoke more than five hours late at the Palais du Pharo, which hosted the debates. The city councilor gave his ex-comrades time – from the PS, he is no longer a member – to settle their internal disputes. And when he appeared, he was greeted by a standing room, “This house, you have just, once again, saved it,” he said, to thunderous applause.
The 186 delegates of the left-wing movement had just validated, by holding out their red badges, the “collective governance and socialist rallying pact”. Only a few refused to vote for this two-page document bitterly negotiated the previous night and morning, after hours of confabulations and backstage discussions between the different currents of the party. “All together, all together, socialists”, then intoned elected officials and activists.
The vote makes it possible to get out of a violent crisis which almost put the old party of Jean Jaurès on the ground, in the wake of the disputed election of Olivier Faure as first secretary. This victory, obtained on January 19 with 51.09% of the vote, had been contested by Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, the mayor of Rouen, who had denounced “fraud” after being narrowly beaten. He then mentioned the threat of a “split”. This is now the confirmed result, even if the text recognizes “irregularities”.
Two “delegated” first secretaries
The boss of the PS will now be “accompanied in the exercise of his missions” by two first “delegated” secretaries: his ally Johanna Rolland, mayor of Nantes, but also Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol. The pact provides, among other things, that the trio is working on a reform of the mode of election within the Socialist Party. They will have to work “in a collegial manner, seeking consensus”. In case of divergence, the decision-making body remains the national office of the party. And these fundamental differences have not disappeared.
The electoral alliance made with rebellious France, EELV and the Communist Party, which led to the constitution of Nupes (New popular ecological and social union), continues to be debated. Olivier Faure negotiated and validated it. For its supporters, the agreement allowed the Socialists to retain 30 deputies in the National Assembly, while the PS had just hit rock bottom in the 2022 presidential election with the meager 1.75% obtained by its candidate, Anne Hidalgo.
One party, three currents
Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol is much less enthusiastic about Nupes. Within the party, he wants to embody a “central force, neither social-liberal nor social-populist”, as one of his relatives, the senator from Paris David Assouline, said at the congress podium. In this regard, the pact is content to underline the “willingness to pursue, with respect for sensitivities, a strategy of bringing together the left and ecology”. This is the strategy precisely followed in Marseille by Bruno Payan with the “Printemps marseillais”.
The third current to present an orientation text to this congress is clearly opposed to Nupes. He is represented by the mayor of Vaulx-en-Velin, Hélène Geoffroy, eliminated in the first round of the federal ballot to appoint the first secretary with 20.34% of the vote.
The relationship to Nupes remains a central issue
During the negotiations in Marseille, she gave up entering the leadership of the PS, thereby weakening the position of Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol against Olivier Faure. In the name of the “gathering”, she nevertheless signed the pact which gives her the presidency of the National Council, the party’s parliament.
In the process, Hélène Geoffroy asked for the reinstatement of the “suspended comrades”, those who had presented themselves against Nupes candidates during the last legislative elections. Before her, one of her supporters, the former deputy Patrick Menucci, recalled that the relationship of the PS to rebellious France remains a “central question”. The man is a representative of an old guard who distrusts the radicalism of the Melenchonists. “It’s up to us to say what will be after Marseille,” he concluded. He too was applauded.
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