More trouble for Royal as finance guru resigns

15th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 15, 2007 (AFP) - The French Socialist Party's economics guru has resigned amid a row over the cost of Segolene Royal's presidential programme, spelling fresh trouble for her flagging campaign.

PARIS, Feb 15, 2007 (AFP) - The French Socialist Party's economics guru has resigned amid a row over the cost of Segolene Royal's presidential programme, spelling fresh trouble for her flagging campaign.

Eric Besson, the man in charge of costing Royal's election programme, said late Wednesday he was standing down as PS finance and economics secretary and withdrawing from the election campaign.

He told AFP he had handed his resignation to PS first secretary Francois Hollande for "personal reasons", saying he was "determined not to get in the way, either of the first secretary or the Socialist Party candidate".

Besson denied his decision was linked to disagreements over the cost of Royal's programme, but Liberation newspaper said he was attacked for quoting a price tag of 35 billion euros (46 billion dollars) without party approval.

Royal's right-wing rival Nicolas Sarkozy -- who has pulled ahead in the polls since mid-January -- gave a lower figure of 30 billion euros for his project in an interview on Wednesday.

Both Royal and Sarkozy -- the election frontrunners -- are facing tough questioning over how they plan to pay for new welfare expenditure without raising taxes or worsening France's debt problem.

Despite a detailed policy speech at the weekend intended to revive her campaign, a string of new polls show Royal trailing seven to eight points behind Sarkozy in a presidential run-off vote.

Cracks appeared in Royal's team on Wednesday when a senior ally disowned a letter in which she attacked President Jacques Chirac's Africa policy, only for her comments to be formally endorsed by the PS hours later.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Presidential elections

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