Published 23rd February, 2012
The Socialist Party or PS was founded in April 1905 as the French Section of the Worker’s International (SFIO). It was a merger of the Socialist Party of France and the French Socialist Party. The party describes itself as centre-left and believes in Social democracy and Democratic socialism.
In 1920 the party split up with one faction becoming the French Communist Party (PCF) and the other maintaining a non-revolutionary stance.
The SFIO was the largest party in the 1936 elections and formed a Popular Front government with the Radicals. It went into opposition in 1938 and during the Second World War was an active participant in the French Resistance movement.
After the war, the SFIO joined the provisional government of Charles de Gaulle and in the 1945 general election was the third largest party with 134 of the 522 seats in the French National Assembly.
In 1946 their representation fell to 102 seats in the November poll. The SFIO led the two Fourth Republic governments with the support of other centre-left parties and introduced a nationalisation programme. In 1951 the party increased slightly to 104 seats but dropped back again in 1956 to 95 seats.
In 1958, with the collapse of the Fourth republic, the SFIO took just 40 of the 546 seats in the French National Assembly.
In 1962 they recovered slightly to 66 and in 1965 they joined with the Radicals and Convention of Republican Institutions (CIR) to form the Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left (FGDS).
The merger was a success and in 1967 they recovered to 117 of the 487 seats in the parliament. By 1968 they had dropped back to 57 seats and the defeat led to the collapse of the FGDS.
In 1969 the Socialist Party was formed and under François Mitterrand they signed a common programme with the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Left Radical Movement (MRG). On the basis of the programme which proposed major nationalisation the left did well in the 1972 election, with the PS taking 102 seats and the Communists taking 73 seats.
In 1974 Mitterrand was the PS presidential candidate and lost narrowly to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. He was more successful in 1981 when Mitterrand won the presidential election with 51.76% of the vote in the second round. He went on to win the 1988 election, taking 54.02% in round two.
This was also a good period for the Socialist Party. They took 283 of the 491 seats in parliament in the 1981 general election, 206 seats in 1986 and 260 of 575 seats in 1988.
However economic recession and internal disputes took its toll towards the end of this period and the PS lost the 1993 election heavily, taking just 93 seats in the 577 seat parliament.
Fighting on a platform of a 35 hour week and no more privatisation the PS came back in 1997, taking 255 seats and forming the government with the Communists and Greens, Left Radicals and Citizens’ Movement (MDC).
In the late 1990’s and early 2000s the party was tarnished by corruption charges and as a result they lost the presidential election and the general election in 2002, taking just 140 seats. By 2007 they had recovered slightly, boosting their number of seats to 186 in the 577 seats French National Assembly.
The Socialist Party has 14 of the 74 national seats in the European Parliament and is a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the parliament. The Socialist Party is also a member of the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists.