France's Royal steals limelight with platform

4th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 4, 2007 (AFP) - Segolene Royal, who is campaigning to become France's first ever woman president, on Thursday grabbed an early political advantage by unveiling a raft of planned policies and details of a visit to China.

PARIS, Jan 4, 2007 (AFP) - Segolene Royal, who is campaigning to become France's first ever woman president, on Thursday grabbed an early political advantage by unveiling a raft of planned policies and details of a visit to China.

The one-two punch undercut both incumbent President Jacques Chirac, who announced planned tax cuts for businesses in France the same day, and her chief rival on the right for the presidency, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

It also underlined Royal's attempts to bolster her credibility domestically and internationally after months of sniping from detractors that the 53-year-old candidate of the opposition Socialist Party was a political lightweight.

"If France is having a hard time, it's not for lack of advantages -- it's because its leaders have wasted them," she said in a speech conveying New Year's wishes to the public.

She outlined a platform of promises whereby, under her, the French would benefit from "an exercise of power that is simple, direct and genuine".

Royal proposed improving housing security, especially for families and the homeless. That responded to a government bill announced Wednesday that went in the same direction following pressure from a left-wing group that brought the issue to the fore over the past two weeks.

She also argued for a reform of France's generous welfare system that would reward active job-seekers and offer better child-care options for working parents, and pledged to ensure France had influence over EU labour laws.

Later Thursday, Royal was to give details of a trip to China that would see her and a 15-strong delegation speaking to top officials, including possibly President Hu Jintao. The visit would run from Saturday to Tuesday, with Royal leaving late Friday.

China "is an enormous emerging power" whose increasing clout in the globalised marketplace "makes the French nervous," Royal's campaign manager, Jean-Louis Biano, told AFP.

Polls already show Royal leading the race to succeed 74-year-old Chirac in the presidential elections, due in two rounds on April 22 and May 6.

The latest survey, carried out by the CSA institute and published Thursday, predicted she would take the job with 52 percent in the final vote, compared to 48 percent for the 51-year-old Sarkozy.

Far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, who made it to the runoff vote in the 2002 presidential election, was credited with 15 percent of the votes, down one point.

Chirac, meanwhile, has not ruled out standing for a third term despite low popularity.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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