Royal and Sarkozy lead field of 39 candidates

11th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 10, 2006 (AFP) - Socialist politician Ségolène Royal and conservative Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy lead a field of 39 candidates vying for president in elections due next year.

PARIS, Dec 10, 2006 (AFP) - Socialist politician Ségolène Royal and conservative Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy lead a field of 39 candidates vying for president in elections due next year.

The group lost one member Sunday when Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a left-wing rival of Royal's, did a deal with the Socialists that saw him withdraw his candidacy.

These are the main names in the ring for the first round of the presidential elections on April 22, 2007, which will likely be followed on May 6 by a knockout round between the top two contenders:

— Ségolène Royal, 53. The Socialist Party's official candidate, she is aiming to become France's first woman president.

— Nicolas Sarkozy, 51. The head of the ruling conservative Union for a Popular Movement, he is neck-and-neck with Royal in voter intention polls that leave all the others well behind.

— Jean-Marie Le Pen, 77. The head of the far-right National Front, he caused a major upset in the last elections in 2002 when he made it through to the knock-out second round against Jacques Chirac, who then won re-election by a landslide.

— François Bayrou, 55. Head of the small centre-right Union for French Democracy party.

— Philippe de Villiers, 57. Head of the nationalist right-wing Movement for France.

— Arlette Laguiller, 65. Head of the far-left Worker's Struggle party.

— Olivier Besancenot, 32. Spokesman for the the small Revolutionary Communist League.

Another probably candidate is Marie-George Buffet, 56, the head of the French Communist Party, although she is struggling to win her party's nomination.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, 53, and Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, 60, have also been suggested as possible candidates though they have not yet come forward.

Chirac, meanwhile, has suggested he might be thinking about trying for a third term, though his age — he turned 74 last month — and his unpopularity make that unlikely.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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