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June 6, 2005
French Socialists In Disarray Apres Non

The Guardian (UK) reports that French Socialists have expelled former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and several of his allies after he campaigned vigorously for the 'Non' vote in last week's EU debacle:

France's Socialists were in crisis yesterday after Laurent Fabius, the former prime minister, was unceremoniously ejected from the leadership for having broken the party line and championed the victorious no vote in last weekend's referendum on the EU constitution.

Mr Fabius, the Socialists' number two, and four of his chief lieutenants were ousted from the party's 20-strong national secretariat at a stormy six-hour meeting in a Paris hotel one week after 55% of French voters rejected the constitution, triggering a government reshuffle in France and plunging the union into disarray.

"Disarray" may be putting it mildly. Fabius touched a nerve on the French Left when he stumped for Non on the basis that it would force the French to accept a more Anglicized free-market approach to economics. Getting past whether that's true and whether it is inevitable, the French clearly don't want it -- and one would expect the Socialists themselves to clearly oppose it.

However, the party voted with a 59% majority in January to support the proposed constitution, and Fabius did not comply in lockstep with that decision. That's the official word from party leader Francois Hollande, who argued that leadership had to remain united and that Fabius had undermined the "democracy' of the group by publicly remaining true to his conscience.

While Hollande intends on enforcing "democracy" by expelling those who practice it, he might be advised to take care in doing so. As it turns out, a majority of Socialists voted against the EU pact in the election, ironically by the same percentage who supported it in January: 59%. In expelling Fabius, Hollande may wind up creating a schism among French Socialists that will not be easily healed. That will only strengthen Jacques Chirac, whose performance polls show him at rock bottom in the mid-20s at the moment. With the Socialist vote potentially split between Hollande and Fabius, though, Chirac could garner enough support to win re-election in 2007.

The Socialists should be celebrating the defeat of the EU constitution, all things considered, instead of tearing themselves to shreds over it. The party's inability to determine what it represents shows that European socialism has become an empty vessel, a shadow of its former power as history increasingly exposes it for the false economic and political philosophy it is. Unfortunately, the stalwarts of Old Europe will be the last to learn that lesson.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 6, 2005 7:16 AM

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