Endorsements for Sarkozy; Royal plays gender card

6th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

LYON, France, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - French right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy received support from the country's first lady Thursday, as a minister resigned to back the centrist contender Francois Bayrou.

LYON, France, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - French right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy received support from the country's first lady Thursday, as a minister resigned to back the centrist contender Francois Bayrou.

The Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, the first female frontrunner in the election campaign, said Thursday at a forum in Paris that "women's time has come."

Sarkozy got a glowing endorsement from President Jacques Chirac's wife, Bernadette, at an election rally in the eastern city of Lyon.

"I am here obviously because I support him," she said. "I think that Nicolas Sarkozy is the best person to meet the challenges of the France of tomorrow -- to carry the hopes of the France of tomorrow -- so I'm doing all that I can to help him win."

Her endorsement came weeks after Chirac, a former political rival to Sarkozy, officially backed his election bid after deciding not to run for a third term himself.

Earlier, Sarkozy skipped another campaign appearance in Lyon where protesters had awaited him.

At least 200 people carrying banners reading "You are not welcome" had massed in the city's Croix-Rousse neighbourhood, a trendy district where Sarkozy had been scheduled to visit a chocolate maker's shop.

In Paris meanwhile, Royal told a forum organised by women's Elle magazine "women's time has come."

"When the cause of women advances, it is also the cause of men that advances, it is the cause of society as a whole that advances," she said.

Royal complained of sexist hurdles barring her road, although polls show her and the other main candidates drawing almost equal support from men and women.

She said her policy priorities for women included new legislation against domestic violence, better child care facilities and kindergarten places for all children from the age of three.

Meanwhile, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, who has been in third place in recent polls, picked up the support of Azouz Begag, minister for equal opportunity, who resigned from his post to campaign with Bayrou.

Begag is known to have fallen out with Sarkozy over the former interior minister's call for a "ministry of immigration and national identity".

Begag, whose parents are Algerian, denounced Sarkozy's position as an "indecent" bid for votes among "the lost sheep of the far-right."

The hectic day in the campaign leading up to the April 22 first round vote also included far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen addressing the women's forum in Paris.

He said he was against making condoms freely available in schools and advised young people to masturbate instead.

Le Pen dodged a question on the right to abortion, saying it was "not a main preoccupation for French people."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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