Royal backs former partner Hollande in French left's primary
Defeated French presidential hopeful Segolene Royal on Wednesday gave her backing to her former partner Francois Hollande in the primary to choose a Socialist candidate for next year's election.
Royal, who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential poll, came in fourth in the first round of the primary, forcing her to choose whether to back the father of her children or his rival Martine Aubry in Sunday's run-off.
"I give my support to Francois Hollande," she told AFP. "He came in first in the first round and it is legitimate to increase this lead" and "my new ideas have been taken into account in the candidate's programme."
Royal said Hollande shared her goals of reforming banks, fighting lay-offs, restoring morality to public life, banning politicians from holding multiple elected offices and building a new green economy.
"France will find itself in 2012 at a decisive moment in its history. We on the left have no right to miss this appointment with the French people, who expect us to be at their service, effective and united," she said.
Hollande and Royal lived as a couple for almost three decades and raised four children together but split shortly before Royal's unsuccessful 2007 election campaign, which saw the centre-right's Sarkozy take office.
Opinion polls suggest either of the top two Socialist hopefuls could beat Sarkozy next year, but Royal's relations with both Hollande and Aubry have been testy and it was not clear which she would back once she bowed out.
Royal believes Aubry's supporters rigged an internal Socialist Party vote to bar her from becoming party leader, and relations with Hollande were soured when he moved in with his new girlfriend, a political journalist.
This situation has led political rivals like Green Euro-MP Danny Cohn-Bendit to joke before the primary that Royal would have to choose "between the man who betrayed her and the woman who robbed her."
Hollande took 39 percent of the vote in the first round of the primary, and before Royal -- who won seven percent -- spoke out, he already had the backing of free-marketeer Manuel Valls with his five percent score.
Aubry was in second place in the first round with 31 percent, but is expected to win the lion's share of the votes from the 17 percent of left-wingers who backed protectionist Arnaud Montebourg.
The leading pair were to conduct a televised debate later Wednesday.
© 2011 AFP