Internal disagreements in the Socialist Party
PARIS, Jan 17, 2007 (AFP) - On the defensive after the weekend acclamation of her rival Nicolas Sarkozy, France's Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal sought to quash rumours Wednesday of growing discord within the ranks of her own party.The left-winger who hopes to be France's first woman president was forced to react after her partner -- Socialist Party (PS) leader Francois Hollande -- called for tax increases for people earning more than 4,000 euros (5,165 dollars) a month if she is elected i
PARIS, Jan 17, 2007 (AFP) - On the defensive after the weekend acclamation of her rival Nicolas Sarkozy, France's Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal sought to quash rumours Wednesday of growing discord within the ranks of her own party.
The left-winger who hopes to be France's first woman president was forced to react after her partner -- Socialist Party (PS) leader Francois Hollande -- called for tax increases for people earning more than 4,000 euros (5,165 dollars) a month if she is elected in May.
The proposal was not coordinated with Royal's campaign headquarters and prompted a quick rebuttal from the candidate herself, who is anxious not to alienate France's middle classes.
Combined with other signs of internal disarray -- as well as a sudden dip in the polls following Sarkozy's triumphant nomination at a ruling party congress on Sunday -- the tax row prompted a wave of speculation that all is not well in the Royal camp.
"Cordial misunderstanding" headlined the left-wing daily Liberation, which said that there are growing problems of coordination between Royal's presidential team and the party hierarchy under Hollande.
"Francois Hollande and Segolene Royal still love each other. But they are looking in dramatically different directions. This observation is causing growing anxiety among people of the left," Liberation said.
Commentators said that PS traditionalists want to wage a classic fight based on standard left-wing themes like taxation and public services and with strong attacks on Sarkozy, while Royal fears this will backfire and wants close personal control over the campaign.
This is causing growing tension in the provinces, where local PS officials are often at odds with Royal-ists working in the so-called "Desirs d'Avenir" (Desire for the Future) committees that were set up to secure her nomination as candidate, Liberation said.
Royal intervened personally Wednesday to stop the reports of dissension, saying that the variety of views among Socialists was a sign of strength.
"We on the left are not trying to put up a fake illusion of unity. What I want to do is to bring everyone together with all their independence and their originality. This is part of the left's strength -- that not everyone thinks the same way," she said in a radio interview.
The Socialist candidate has been forced onto the back foot for the first time since she won November's primary, with a new poll this week showing that her ratings have fallen to 48 percent compared to 52 percent for Sarkozy.
Though surveys show the public still responds well to her soft-focus campaigning style, critics say she needs to develop clearer policy proposals before entering what is likely to be a cut-throat contest with her right-wing opponent.
There was more pressure on Royal Wednesday when she and Hollande -- who have been a couple for more than 25 years and have four children -- denied claims circulating on the Internet that they had used a legal device to avoid paying wealth tax.
Hollande filed suit for libel after a deputy from the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) repeated the allegation, and Royal issued a statement saying that they did indeed pay a small amount in wealth tax as their combined fortune adds up to slightly above the 750,000 euro threshold.
"I am comfortably off, so I consider it normal to pay wealth tax. I cannot allow myself to be accused of tax fraud. That is scandalous," she told RTL radio.
Subject: French News