Royal defends 'human values' in final campaign push

17th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

NANTES, France, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal urged French voters on Monday to choose a country where "human values are more important that stock market values" as she headed into a tough final week of campaigning ahead of the first round of voting.

NANTES, France, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal urged French voters on Monday to choose a country where "human values are more important that stock market values" as she headed into a tough final week of campaigning ahead of the first round of voting.

Royal, who has been trailing behind right-wing frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls, received an important boost Monday from a survey showing the pair neck-and-neck in a second round runoff vote.

The Socialist candidate told some 9,000 supporters in a packed hall in the Atlantic city of Nantes that she would bring change to France without the "brutality" embodied by Sarkozy.

"On the one hand, there is brutality and I am proposing to reform France without brutality. Do you want this?" asked Royal, to which the crowd responded with a resounding: "Yes!".

"What I am offering is that stock market values always take a back seat to human values," said the Socialist contender who was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers of "Segolene, President".

Royal, 53, heads into a crucial week ahead of the vote of Sunday, with most polls showing her lagging behind Sarkozy and closely followed by the centrist candidate Francois Bayrou.

For the first time in a month, a poll conducted by CSA and to be published Tuesday in Le Parisien, showed Royal and Sarkozy each getting 50 percent if they make it to the May 6 divider.

Only two polls, conducted on March 21 and 22, have put the two candidates on an equal footing in the second round since January.

With almost one in three voters still undecided, the election is seen as one of the most unpredictable in decades.

Before the thousands gathered in Nantes, Royal argued that she would pose the strongest challenge to the right and end its 12-year grip on power if she wins a place in the runoff.

"We are facing a historic moment," said Royal, adding that "France was not at the level that it should be."

She promised to bring an end to "a state monopolized by a clique, wealthy powers and lobbies of all sorts."

"I am not dependent on wealth, I have no lobby, I have no one to promise to a position. I only have you," Royal told a packed meeting hall with fans waving French tricolore flags.

Royal, who wants to become France's first woman president, was dealt a blow over the weekend when former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard and former health minister Bernard Kouchner called for an alliance between her and Bayrou ahead of Sunday's vote.

The Socialist contender was caught completely off guard by the proposal which confirmed lingering doubts within her camp about her presidential credentials.

After the latest challenge to her authority, Royal cut a lonely figure before the crowd of supporters.

She pledged to "remain a free woman" and said that if elected she would be accountable to the people. "I will come before you regularly, to be accountable... with this power that you have vested in me, but not given to me."

The former advisor to president Francois Mitterrand devoted much of her address to institutional reform and won applause when she proposed giving foreigners who are legal residents the right to vote in municipal elections.

The proposal stood in contrast to Sarkozy's plans to create a ministry of immigration and national identity that leftist politicans have criticised as a ploy to steal votes from the far-right.

Sarkozy has called in the past for foreigners to have the right to vote in local elections, but has not referred to the idea in his campaign.

For many in the crowd of supporters, Royal's message struck a chord.

Patrick Stephan, a 54-year-old consultant, said he was convinced that Royal "could be a roadblock" for Sarkozy. "My heart is on the left," he said.

A 59-year-old retiree, who declined to give his name, said he had returned to the Socialist Party after quitting 10 years ago because he was alarmed by Sarkozy's proposals.

"We are going to become an American society," he complained, saying France would become dominated by big money interests.

For Elise Fleurance, a 34-year-old worker in the food industry, Royal gets her vote because "her concerns are close to the people."

"With a woman, things can change. She will be more concerned with equality, children. She really is the future of France," said Valerie Quitte, 45, who works in a shoe factory.

The campaign rally opened with Nantes mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is also the Socialist leader in parliament.

"I want to say to the millions of French people who are still wondering about their choice for Sunday: Segolene Royale holds the flame of renewal," said Ayrault.

"Help her stoke it and make it spread."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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