Feuding clouds French Socialist congress

3rd September 2007, Comments 0 comments

LA ROCHELLE, France, Sept 2, 2007 (AFP) - An icy stand-off between the former power couple of the French left, defeated presidential hopeful Segolene Royal and Socialist leader Francois Hollande, cast a chill over the party's summer congress at the weekend.

LA ROCHELLE, France, Sept 2, 2007 (AFP) - An icy stand-off between the former power couple of the French left, defeated presidential hopeful Segolene Royal and Socialist leader Francois Hollande, cast a chill over the party's summer congress at the weekend.

Following her defeat to Nicolas Sarkozy in May, Royal announced that she was separating from Hollande, with whom she has four children, and who has since been pictured with a new girlfriend in the French press.

The highly public break-up added to the chaos at the head of France's main opposition party, torn by infighting and disarmed by the loss of several high-profile figures who have joined Sarkozy's right-wing government.

Royal is battling to take over the party reins when Hollande's term ends next year, while Hollande said Friday he would consider taking on his former partner for the 2012 presidential nomination.

A weekend congress of some 4,000 Socialist Party activists in the Atlantic city of La Rochelle, billed as a chance for the party to get back on track, was instead dominated by their stand-off.

Hollande did not attend Royal's opening address, in which she said she was "confident the party can rise up and make itself heard," while she left without listening to Hollande's keynote speech on Sunday.

Meanwhile both are under sustained attack from critics, with a new raft of insider books holding Royal personally responsible for the Socialist defeat and blaming Hollande for the party's failure to renew itself.

Several party heavyweights, including Dominique Strauss-Kahn, frontrunner to take over as head of the International Monetary Fund, and former prime ministers Laurent Fabius and Lionel Jospin, stayed away from La Rochelle.

But Bertrand Delanoe, the popular mayor of Paris, used the congress to boost his image as a potential alternative leader: he was the only figure to receive a standing ovation for his speech to militants.

Asked about his future plans, Delanoe, 57, whose image has received a big boost from the launch of a hugely popular cycle rental scheme in Paris, said he was "not ruling anything out."

AFP

Subject: French news

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