Major political parties in France

Political parties in France can be perplexing to an expat. This is because there are a glut of parties across the spectrum, and they often splinter or mutate into a new party, form alliances with each other, or at times just dissolve. This contrasts with nations such as the US or the UK where a small number of parties have dominated for decades.

Majority of French parties can be quite easily positioned along the old left-right economic scale. Amusingly, in French politics, the term libéral tends to mean merely economic (free-market) liberalism – the opposite of socialism – instead of the social liberalism (civil rights, etc.) which is very often referenced in British and American discourse.

Below is an outline of the current main political parties in France.

  • La RépubliqueEn Marche!

Meaning “Republic On The Move” in English, this political party (abbreviated to En Marche!) rose from foundation to the most successful party in French elections within two years. The current French President (Emmanuel Macron) founded it in the year 2016 as a centrist liberal party. Akin to the Liberal Democrats in the UK, the party stands for socio-economic liberalism, along with pro-Europeanism. Nevertheless, the party has shifted towards the right since 2017.

  • The Republicans (Les Républicains)

The former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, instituted this mainstream conservative party in the year 2015. Part of the Gaullist political tradition, it emerged from the ashes of the Popular Union Movement (Union pour unMouvementPopulaire – UMP). That itself was initiated by another former president, Jacques Chirac, in the year 2002. This party has been one of the major forces in 21st-century French politics.

  • Democratic Movement (Mouvementdémocrate – MoDem)

MoDem was founded in the year 2007 by François Bayrou, who still leads the party. It is a descendant to the Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratiefrançaise – UDF) and roughly follows the third-way ideology of socio-economic liberalism as well as being a strong pro-Europe political party. The party’s likenesses to En Marche! saw it join hands with Macron’s party in the year 2017 parliamentary elections as well as back his successful presidential campaign that year.

  • Socialist Party (Partisocialiste)

The Socialist Party was in the past the main party on the left in France, even though its support has declined in recent years. Founded way back in the year 1969 from an alliance of organizations and parties on the non-communist left, it has given two French presidents – François Mitterrand (1981-86 and 1988-93) and François Hollande (2012-17).

  • Union of Democrats and Independents (Union des démocrates et indépendants – UDI)

Founded in 2012, the UDI is a liberal party. Nevertheless, it is more classically liberal than En Marche! orMoDem. This places it far more on the right-wing of the political spectrum and nearer to conservative French parties. The party backed the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in the 2017 and 2022 elections and associated itself with right-wing parties in parliamentary elections.

National Flag