Why are the French political parties so often recreated and renamed unlike in other countries?

To purge organizations, install a new leadership and shift away from previous political legacies.

The French right wing postwar has been dominated by the prominent figure of the General de Gaulle. In the 60s, the new generation of voters start to dislike him for his traditionalist positions on colonies and students strike in 1968. After his death, the popularity of his parti (UDR) was in freefall and they were losing elections after elections. In 1976, his heirs lead by Jacques Chirac decided to rebuild the Party under a new name (RPR). They kept de Gaulle as an historical figure, removed the old lieutenants and went on promoting the modernisation.

The RPR then followed the same decline as its predecessor. At the end of 2 mandates by Chirac, the Parti was crippled by internal conflicts and a declining popularity. Sarkozy who wanted to take over rebuilt the organisation under a new name (UMP), removing the figure of de Gaulle and most of Chirac’s partisans. More recently, the numerous fights between Sarkozy’s potential successors lead to the explosion of this relatively new parti. Part of the previous leadership went onto reforming a new right wing parti under a new name (LR). Others seized the opportunity to join the rank of Macron’s new Parti, contributing to his victory.

On the left, the Socialist Parti has never undertake a real renaming because it claims a filiation with past political figures like Jean Jaurès and Mitterand. This is a problem for the Parti. The weight of the legacy makes it harder for a new leadership to emerge, because you can not openly antagonise older figures even if they have become totally out of touch with current realities.

Another example is Marine Le Pen, who renamed her parti (from FN to RN) to get away from the figure of her racist father and previous parti leader - even though she is as racist as him. Her niece went even further and removed Le Pen from her name to erase any remaining associations with the old guy (she for sure is a racist too). You can be sure that when time comes she will make a new parti with a new name, importing half of the previous one into if and purging the other half.

A large part of politics in France is about winning national election and rebranding has proven a winning strategy to gather new people around a new presidential figure running for election.

This text was originally published in quora.

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