France's Royal confirms bid for Socialist leadership
French Socialist Segolene Royal confirmed she intends to run for the leadership of her partyPARIS, January 3, 2008 - French Socialist Segolene Royal confirmed on
Thursday she intends to run for the leadership of her party this year, laying
the foundations for a possible new presidential bid in 2012.
"I plan to see through to the end what I started in this presidential
campaign, to renovate the left" and "bring the Socialists together around this
political project," the 54-year-old Royal told France 2 television.
Royal's former partner, Francois Hollande, is to step down this year as
Socialist Party first secretary.
Following their break-up last June, Royal said she would run to replace him
if backed by a majority of party activists.
She told France 2 she would "devote (herself) fully to the Socialist Party"
in the campaign for municipal elections in March, in which the Socialists hope
to claw back some ground from President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling right.
But her announcement was greeted with scepticism by some Socialists,
including Benoit Hamon, a 40-year-old member of the European parliament and party leftwinger.
"Given our defeat in the presidential election, she is not the most
legitimate to embody the renovation and the refoundation of the Socialist
Party," Hamon told BFM radio.
"I do not think the choices she defends today -- a kind of strategic
improvisation, hazy political choices on the economic and social fronts --
embody modern Socialism."
While he acknowledged Royal was "a central figure in the debate on the
left", Hamon accused her generation of "reducing politics to a battle of egos".
Socialist member of parliament Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said Royal's
comments were "not unexpected but truly unwelcome", saying she and other party
heavyweights should focus on the upcoming elections and on renovating the
The Socialists have been torn by infighting since Royal's defeat to Sarkozy
in May, its third successive rout in a presidential election, and further
disarmed by the loss of several high-profile figures to the right-wing
Furious at Socialist rivals who she accused of sabotaging her campaign,
Royal retreated from party life in the months following the election, staying
away from two high-profile forums on the "renovation" of the left.
But last month Royal staged a much-publicised political comeback with a new
book, in which she described her defeat as a "missed opportunity but a promise
of victory" and hinted she would seek to run again in 2012.
Polls suggest left-wing voters see Royal as best-placed to lead the
Socialists, but she faces a tough challenge from within the party, where
critics savaged her campaign as amateurish and populist.
One of Royal's most serious rivals, former finance minister Dominique
Strauss Kahn has left the leadership race after taking the helm of the
International Monetary Fund late last year.
But she still faces a potential challenge from the popular mayor of Paris
Bertrand Delanoe, while Socialists loyal to Strauss-Kahn and the hard-left
former prime minister Laurent Fabius continue to question her authority.