The Centrists (French: Les Centristes, LC), formerly known as New Centre (Nouveau Centre, NC) and European Social Liberal Party (Parti Social Libéral Européen, PSLE), is a centre-right political party in France, formed by the members of the Union for French Democracy (UDF) – including 18 of the 29 members of the UDF in the National Assembly) – who did not agree with François Bayrou's decision to found the Democratic Movement (MoDem) and wanted to support the newly elected president Nicolas Sarkozy, continuing the UDF-Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) alliance.
The Centrists trace their history to the major centrist and Christian-democratic political parties in the Fourth and Fifth Republics. The parties maintained a separate existence from the Gaullist parties in the early years of the Fifth Republic primarily because of de Gaulle's strong opposition to European integration. However the major centrist party, the Union for French Democracy (UDF), began to lose importance after UDF leader Valéry Giscard was defeated by François Mitterrand in the 1981 presidential election and as the Gaullist Rally for the Republic (RPR) become more pro-European during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2002, the RPR suggested a merger with the UDF but then-UDF leader Francois Bayrou refused. The RPR itself merged with smaller parties in 2002 to become the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). At the same time, the UDF served as a junior partner for the UMP and supported UMP governments. UMP prime ministers usually appointed several UDF politicians to their governments to cement that support. In 2005, Bayrou became increasingly critical of the UMP government and ended his support of the Gaullist party in 2006. In the 2007 elections that followed, most UDF deputies running for reelection ran with the UMP in order to gain UMP support and ensure their prospects of reelection. The remains of the UDF renamed itself the New Centre and succeeded in electing 22 deputies to the National Assembly. Bayrou opposed the alliance with the UMP and formed a new party, the Democratic Movement (MoDem).
During the legislative elections in June 2007, 17 NC deputies were elected, in addition to five unaffiliated deputies elected under the "Majorité Présidentielle" banner. Only three MoDem deputies were elected, even though they won 7.6% of the first round vote and the NC-PSLE won about 2.3%. However, fewer than one hundred NC candidates were standing, compared to over 500 for the MoDem.
Minister of Defense Hervé Morin was elected by the first round in Eure (50.05%), other candidates such as François Sauvadet, Charles de Courson were also elected by the first round. In total, six NC-PSLE members were elected by round one.
In the second round, 11 additional deputies were elected, giving the party a total of 17 deputies. With other deputies elected under various banners, the party formed a parliamentary group of 22 members, including MoDem candidates Jean-Christophe Lagarde. Mayotte MoDem deputy Abdoulatifou Aly joined the group before defecting back to the MoDem. In a 2008 by-election in the Rhone, the party gained a seat after the UMP incumbent's election was invalidated.
In his second cabinet, the Prime Minister François Fillon appointed three NC members Hervé Morin as Defense Minister, André Santini as State Secretary for Public Servants and Valérie Létard as State Secretary for Social Solidarity.
In the municipal and cantonal elections held in 2008, the party held most if its seats, but lost Blois and Amiens to the PS. It did gain, however, the cities of Agen and Châtellerault. It lost the department of the Somme but gained the Côte-d'Or, where François Sauvadet was elected as departmental president. In the 2009 European elections the party joined the presidential majority alliance and three NC members were elected as MEPs.
The Centrists' political ideas are in large part inspired by those of François Bayrou in his 2007 presidential campaign.
It supports a social market economy, which seeks to find a compromise between socialism and laissez-faire capitalism. In this regards, it supports social welfare and a competitive market economy. It also supports a looser application of the French 35-hour workweek, a reduction in the payroll tax, a French version of the American Small Business Administration and a reduction of the government debt and more budgetary regulation.
The Centrists supports a diversification of energy sources to cut by four greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In this regard, it supports the development of public transit and further development of fluvial and railway transportation of goods and people.
It supports a greater role for the French Parliament and some in the party favour the introduction of mixed member proportional (MMP) or a German electoral system for parliamentary elections. Like many French centrist parties descended from the centrist Christian democratic ideals, it is strongly Europhile and supports increased European control over the economy, environment, immigration, energy and research.
It is hard to pinpoint the geographic distribution of the NC's vote since most of its candidates run without UMP opposition. The party is strong institutionally in the Loir-et-Cher, where it holds two of the department's three seats and the presidency of the general council.
|Election year||# of 1st round votes||% of 1st round vote||# of 2nd round votes||% of 2nd round vote||# of seats|
|Election year||# of votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won|
|2009||ran with UMP, Modern Left, Progressives||3|
|2014||ran with MoDem/UDI, Radical Party, Alliance||1|
In order to obtain public financing, The Centrists have signed a convention with Fetia Api, a very small party in French Polynesia. 23 parliamentarians (18 of the French National Assembly and 5 from the Senate) declared they belong to Fetia Api for this reason.