French Socialists sell historic headquarters for $53 million

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s struggling Socialist Party said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its historic headquarters in Paris’ Left Bank for 45.5 million euros ($53.89 million), after a stinging electoral defeat this year left it strapped for cash.

The mansion - in Socialist hands since 1980, just before Francois Mitterrand became the party’s first leader to rise to the presidency - will be sold to French property developer Apsys.

The center-left party won just 29 parliamentary seats in a legislative election this year, down from 280 previously in the 577-strong chamber, causing it to lose state subsidies.

The Socialists also suffered an electoral drubbing in the presidential race in May, as centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron took power, blowing apart France’s traditional two-party system in the process.

The center-left party’s candidate limped into fifth place, after Francois Hollande, whose election five years earlier was hailed as a new dawn for French Socialists, did not seek re-election following an unpopular presidency.

Center-left parties across Europe have struggled to win back voters in the wake of recessions and a global banking crisis that have spawned newer political parties and increased support in some cases for more radical forces on the left.

Macron’s upstart Republic on the Move party has now the largest number of seats in the lower house of parliament.

Funds from the sale of the Socialist headquarters will partly be used for future campaigns. The party said it would not have to move out until next September.

The Socialists are currently being managed by a committee and the party is due to hold a leadership contest next April.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Gareth Jones