Royal aimes to be France's first female president

22nd April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 22, 2007 (AFP) - Segolene Royal, vying to becoming France's first female president on May 6, promises to bring change with a new leadership style and revamped social programmes for the nation's poor and unemployed.

PARIS, April 22, 2007 (AFP) - Segolene Royal, vying to becoming France's first female president on May 6, promises to bring change with a new leadership style and revamped social programmes for the nation's poor and unemployed.

Only a year and a half ago she was a relative unknown as president of the Poitou-Charentes region and appeared destined to play no more than a senior role in the echelons of the Socialist Party.

But after successfully beating two party heavyweights for the Socialist nomination in November, Royal was crowned "the queen of the polls" as surveys showed she was ahead of rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy.

The 53-year-old former adviser to president Francois Mitterrand ran into trouble over a string of foreign policy gaffes and squabbling within her party that saw her poll numbers take a nosedive in late January.

But on Sunday, Royal took the second spot in Sunday's first round of voting, advancing to the runoff on May 6 against Sarkozy, who came in first.

A mother of four children, aged 14 to 22, Royal has urged voters to make the historic choice of putting a woman in the Elysee palace, promising a new era of democracy with her catchphrase: "With me, never again will politics be made without you."

Royal has pledged to hold a referendum to replace the current institutions of government, giving parliament greater oversight powers and reducing the powers of the presidency.

She has also promised to maintain and improve France's cherished welfare state by creating jobs for the nation's unemployed youth, raising the minimum wage and boosting small pensions among a raft of new social programmes.

Critics say her programme is no more than a re-hash of old Socialist manifestos that rely on state intervention in the economy. Supporters say she is in touch with the French people's desire to maintain a strong social safety net.

"Human values are more important than the value of the stock market," Royal repeated during her campaign rallies in the leadup to Sunday's vote.

Polls have consistently shown however that voters see her as lacking the stature needed to hold the presidency and question her competence on foreign policy.

Royal was harshly criticised for praising China's justice system during a trip to Beijing, in particular from human rights groups who noted that China is the world's leader for use of the death penalty.

The Socialist Party's former economics chief Eric Besson published a book last month after slamming the door on the party in which he described Royal as a glory-hunting populist.

While she has sought to portray herself as a woman operating outside of the traditional party structure, in fact her political background was strictly conventional.

After attending the elite National Administration School ENA, she was cherry-picked to be an advisor to Mitterand, a post where spent seven years.

In 1988 she was elected to the National Assembly and four years later had her first cabinet post at the environment ministry. In the socialist government of 1997 to 2002 she was junior minister for education, then for the family.

Born in Senegal, Royal was one of eight children of a military officer from Lorraine in northeast France.  She is also the partner of PS leader Francois Hollande -- with whom she has four children.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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