While France has historically had two dominant parties (a center-left party, currently known as Parti Socialiste, and a center-right party, currently known as Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) it also has a number of minor parties which at various times in the 5th Republic have had significant influence on the nation’s political landscape. The following are the parties which, in the most recent presidential election (2012) gained 2 or more percent of the vote during the 1st round of elections.
PARTI SOCIALISTE (PS)
The Parti Socialiste is one of the two major parties in France, as well as one with the oldest historical roots. Its presidential candidate, François Hollande, recently won the presidential election in France.
The center-left party has its origins as a workers movement that began in the late 1800s, one that became stronger after the recognition by the French government of the right to strike in 1864 and the right to form unions in 1884. The PS can be traced back to a group formed in 1895 called the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT). From the beginning, the group that would eventually become the Socialist Party has been closely associated with workers unions, and it remains one of its most important aspects today. In 1905, different socialist currents combined to form the Section française de l’internationale ouvrière (SFIO). This party accumulated a large base of support from farmers, workers, and artisans, as well as intellectuals and civil servants.
The party remained this way until 1969, when it broke off from the SFIO at the Congress of Altofield. In 1971, at the Congress of Epinay, also called the Socialist Unifying Congress, the PS broadened itself by incorporating other political movements, making it the PS as we know it today.
Their beliefs consist primarily of promoting equality between all members of society, in defending the rights of workers by asking for social reforms. They believe strongly in “parity”, which is the French concept of presenting the same number of male and female candidates from the party for election to the National Assembly. This does not ensure equality in numbers, but equality of chance for both men and women.
UNION pour un MOUVEMENT POPULAIRE (UMP)
The Union pour un Mouvement Populaire is one of the other two major parties in France. This party is center-right, and is currently headed by its Secretary General Jean-François Copé. This is the party of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former President of France until May 2012. The party was officially formed under Jacques Chirac in 2002, when Chirac combined three separate right parties to form the UMP to support his run for President .
The most significant of these three parties was the Rassemblement pour la République (RPR), Chirac’s party during his first term. The roots of the RPR begin in 1958 with the creation of a party called Union pour la Nouvelle République (UNR), which eventually became the RPR in 1976. The other two parties that were merged along with the RPR were la Démocratie Libérale (DL), and by two-thirds of the Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF). This party aimed at combining various political trends: for example Gaullist, centrist, liberal and conservative. Their beliefs included: economic liberalism, work merit, responsibility, solidarity, authority of state and its sovereignty, as well as supporting Europe. In order to realize these values, they wanted to listen to the citizens and re-act by saying “with them and for them.”
FRONT DE GAUCHE (FG)
The Front de Gauche is a far left group that is composed of two principle yet separate political parties: the Parti Communiste and the Parti de Gauche along with other smaller political movements. The Communist party formed in the 1920s when it broke off from the Socialist party. The Communist Party in France is the only one in Western Europe to keep the word “communist” in its name. The Front de Gauche was founded in 2009 for the European elections, and so as to promote republicanism, socialism, communism, environmentalism, and to vote against the Treaty of Lisbon. The Front de Gauche was represented in this past Presidential election by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of the Parti de Gauche.
FRONT NATIONAL (FN)
The Front National (FN) is an extreme-right party. The head of the party is currently Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen. Jean-Marie Le Pen is most well known for making it to the second round of the Presidential elections against Jacques Chirac in 2002. In this past election, Marine le Pen won 18% of the vote. The party is known for being incredibly conservative economically and socially, as well as being especially harsh on immigration.
MOUVEMENT DEMOCRATE (MODEM)
The Mouvement Democrate (Modem), is the most moderate of the major political parties in France. It was created after the 2007 presidential elections and lies in the center both economically and socially. Its supporters believe in independence from left and right wing parties. Their candidate in the past election was François Bayrou. In a political spectrum that allows for extremes, this party does not often receive a large percentage of the vote.
EUROPE ÉCOLOGIE – LES VERTS (EEV, Les Ecologists)