The Atlantic

The Fall of the French Left

With Benoît Hamon’s defeat, his Socialist Party may be obsolete.
Source: Regis Duvignau

In the first round of a French presidential election, there will, naturally, always be more losers than winners. But until Sunday, the Socialist Party had lost in the initial round only once before: in 2002, when incumbent President Lionel Jospin unexpectedly finished a close third, behind a surprise surge from the National Front’s leader (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen.  

This year, independent-centrist Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Marie’s daughter, Marine, now leader of the FN herself, will move on to the final round on May 7. The Socialist candidate, Benoît Hamon, finished an unprecedented fifth. His loss feels very different from Jospin’s of 15 years ago, and not only because his paltry share of the vote was so much lower—just over 6 percent compared to Jospin’s 16.

What is even more striking than the result itself is that, unlike in 2002, this crushing

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
How the Minority Wins
An election marked by gerrymandering, allegations of voter suppression, and legislative power grabs highlights the electoral reality of the GOP.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
What Will 2020 Democrats Do When Crowds Chant ‘Lock Him Up’?
President Trump’s potential criminal liability could add extraordinary volatility to the 2020 presidential campaign.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Theresa May Isn't Going Down Without a Fight
Even as the British premier struggles to push her Brexit plan through Parliament, she proved she still has remarkable staying power.