Jospin does Segolene a big favour: drops out

28th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 28, 2006 (AFP) — Ségolène Royal, the socialist frontrunner for France's presidential election, received a new boost to her campaign Thursday when her nearest rival for the party nomination —— former prime minister Lionel Jospin —— withdrew from the race.

PARIS, Sept 28, 2006 (AFP) — Ségolène Royal, the socialist frontrunner for France's presidential election, received a new boost to her campaign Thursday when her nearest rival for the party nomination —— former prime minister Lionel Jospin —— withdrew from the race.

Two days before the starting—date for declarations in the party's internal primary, Jospin —— who has twice run and lost in presidential elections —— ended weeks of second—guessing when he told RTL radio that he had decided not to stand.

"Unable to unite (the party), I do not want to divide it. I shall not therefore be a candidate for the nomination," he said.

The latest IPSOS poll among supporters of the Socialist Party (PS) on Thursday showed that Royal —— the 53 year—old head of the Poitou—Charentes regional council —— enjoyed 54 percent support, with Jospin, 69, well behind on 21 percent.

Two other declared candidates for the PS nomination —— former finance minister Dominique Strauss—Kahn and former prime minister Laurent Fabius —— had 11 and three percent respectively. Former culture minister Jack Lang had seven percent.

Jospin's withdrawal appeared to give Royal an unassailable lead in the campaign for the socialist nomination, which culminates in a vote of some 185,000 party members on November 16.

The nominee will contest presidential elections in April, leading the left—wing challenge against the likely candidate for the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

However in a sign of persistent tensions inside the PS, Jospin indicated that despite retiring from the race he will not support Royal's bid for the nomination —— because of his disapproval of her political style.

"I think you have guessed: given the method of tackling politics, the relationship with citizens, the way the party is treated —— there is one choice I will not be making in favour of one of the candidates, a female one to be precise," he said.

In a message on his Internet site Jospin went further, saying he was "worried about the vision that some seem to be forming of the presidential election, of the way they are parting company with the requirements of the left, and the way they hope to capture the vote of socialist activists."

Jospin has led attacks from the so—called "elephants" —— the PS's traditional leaders —— against Royal's method of campaigning, which they believe sidesteps the party's decision—making apparatus with a populist appeal to the broader public.

Royal, an elegant former junior minister who is the partner of PS First Secretary Francois Hollande, emerged from nowhere in less than a year to become a hot tip to be France's first woman president —— with polls showing she is now the only candidate capable of beating Sarkozy to the Elysee.

The only chance for her socialist opponents for the nomination is if they can form a blocking majority in the first round of the party's internal vote, thus forcing a run—off on November 23 against the second candidate.

Declarations for the nomination at party headquarters must be lodged between Saturday and Tuesday, after which a series of six debates will be held between the contenders.

A leading member of Royal's campaign, PS spokesman Julien Dray, welcomed Jospin's withdrawal as a "good thing" for the party, adding that the possibility of his candidacy had "created a certain tension."

A former Trotskyist who served as education minister under Francois Mitterrand, Jospin first ran for the presidency in 1995 when he was beaten by President Jacques Chirac. His second bid in 2002 led to humiliation when he was ousted in the first round by far—right leader Jean—Marie Le Pen.

After that he said he was retiring from politics, but recently began dropping hints that he was willing to return if he could be "useful" to the party.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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