Royal prepares make-or-break manifesto launch

8th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - The Socialist candidate for the French presidency Segolene Royal is preparing to set out her long-awaited manifesto Sunday, in what is being billed as a make-or-break opportunity to revive her flagging campaign.

PARIS, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - The Socialist candidate for the French presidency Segolene Royal is preparing to set out her long-awaited manifesto Sunday, in what is being billed as a make-or-break opportunity to revive her flagging campaign.

Slipping badly in the polls behind her right-wing rival Nicolas Sarkozy, Royal has promised to end weeks of deliberations with a keynote speech before Socialist Party (PS) delegates in a Paris suburb in which she will spell out the content of her programme.

Despite growing impatience among supporters, the 53 year-old contender has refused to accelerate her campaign timetable, arguing that she needs first to complete a process of "consultation" with the French public via a series of "participative debates" across the country.But the result has become an intense air of anticipation surrounding Sunday's address -- with warnings of a further fall in the ratings if she fails to live up to expectations.

"History may well see February 11 as the turning point in the 2007 presidential election, not least because Segolene Royal herself has allowed the date to become so important," said Christophe Barbier, political editor of L'Express news magazine.

"She can no longer prevaricate. She can no longer kick into touch. It is double or quits," he said.

Commentators said that Royal faces a double risk. If she produces a manifesto that is too close to her party's own programme, she will be accused of failing to heed the public; but if it is too innovative, she exposes herself to attacks from inside the PS.

On Wednesday the Socialist candidate appeared to signal a major shift to the left, with a speech in Paris in which she attacked "mad capitalism and savage liberalism" and described herself as "vilified" by the "conglomerates of finance and the media."

The speech drew praise from Trotskyist presidential candidate Arlette Laguiller, who said Royal was "returning to the basics of the left", but Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) accused her of taking desperate measures in order to salvage her campaign.

"She is in the classic position of a Socialist candidate who is on the defensive. All she can do is try to rally the left. It is an astonishing foray into neo-Marxism, after the failure of her foray into neo-Social Democracy," said UMP deputy Yves Jego.

Royal emerged from nowhere last year to become France's most popular Socialist, seducing many in the country with her smiling good looks, a soft-focus campaigning style, and often unorthodox policy pronouncements on crime, education and society.

But since the New Year much of the shine has gone out of her campaign, as she made a series of diplomatic gaffes and critics said her programme of

"popular consultation" concealed a worrying lack of content.

Veteran political commentator Alain Duhamel said this week that the Royal method "is the renunciation of leadership and democratic authority. It is following instead of leading, pleasing instead of explaining, persuading or choosing."

A new opinion poll Thursday showed that Royal stands at 47 percent to Sarkozy's 53 percent, were the two to oppose each other in the election's decisive second round. In the multi-candidate first round, Royal's rating fell to 27 percent in the IPSOS survey, compared to Sarkozy's 35 percent.

The right-wing candidate, who is interior minister and UMP leader, has been campaigning vigorously since winning the party's nomination on January 14 -- with a strategy clearly aimed at reaching out to the political centre.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Presidential elections, Segolene Royal

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