Royal brings Socialist heavyweights into campaign

23rd February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 23, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal has brought a high-powered Socialist trio on board her campaign team, including ex-prime minister Lionel Jospin, to help bolster her bid for the top post.

PARIS, Feb 23, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal has brought a high-powered Socialist trio on board her campaign team, including ex-prime minister Lionel Jospin, to help bolster her bid for the top post.

Jospin, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2002, is joining ex-economy and finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Laurent Fabius, the former prime minister under Francois Mitterrand, as part of a revamped campaign team.

"Everyone is united in this decisive phase of the campaign," Royal said late Thursday as she announced her new campaign lineup.

After a strong start in the campaign for the April-May vote, Royal has lost the edge to rightwing rival Nicolas Sarkozy who has been ahead in every poll since his nomination as the governing party's candidate in mid-January.

With two months to go before the first round of voting on April 22, Royal's campaign is faltering amid party infighting and criticism that the candidate has cut herself off from the party apparatus to cultivate her image as an outsider.

Royal's campaign was further shaken when the party's economic policy supremo, Eric Besson, resigned last week and turned in his party card, saying he "did not support the manner in which Segolene Royal's campaign is being conducted."

A former adviser to Mitterrand, Royal announced a reorganisation of her campaign team after the much-publicized release of her 100-point election programme 12 days ago failed to reverse the slide in the polls.

Part of the new 13-member campaign team, the three men are known as the "elephants" of the Socialist Party -- stalwarts who have a strong following within the rank-and-file and are capable of buttressing party unity behind the candidate.

For Jospin, the decision to join Royal's campaign marked a stunning turnaround after he openly criticised her as "trivial" and a demagogue in the runup to the party nomination in November.

The former prime minister was humiliated when he came in third behind far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 election and failed to make it into the run-off against Jacques Chirac.

"Lionel Jospin can bring experience, strength, the memory of past campaigns that he has waged and in particular point out what should not be repeated: the splintering of the vote and losing sight of the objective," said Francois Hollande, leader of the Socialist Party and Royal's partner.

Strauss-Kahn and Fabius challenged Royal for the party nomination in November but their bid failed after polls showed the 53-year-old mother of four was the only contender capable of beating Sarkozy.

Sarkozy's spokesman mocked the overhaul of Royal's campaign team as a retreat to the party's old ways.

"Talk about a reorganisation. Let's get the same old faces and start again!," said Xavier Bertrand.

"Two months ago, the Socialist candidate said she wanted to change everything," said a senior member of Sarkozy's party, Laurent Wauquiez.

"Now she has brought in the party bosses who have been there for 30 years," said Wauquiez.

Other members of her revamped team include Martine Aubry, the former labour minister who brought in legislation creating the 35-hour work week, and feminist Yvette Roudy, in a bid to increase the visibility of women.

Humanitarian and former health minister Bernard Kouchner and another former prime minister during the early Mitterrand years, Pierre Mauroy, have also been named to the team.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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