Royal promises of deep change for France

20th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 19, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal sought Monday to woo back voters during a prime-time television show, saying she was the only contender capable of shepherding France through deep change.

PARIS, Feb 19, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal sought Monday to woo back voters during a prime-time television show, saying she was the only contender capable of shepherding France through deep change.

"I think I'm ready. Not only am I ready but I think I'm the only one who embodies and who can enact the deep change that France needs," Royal said during the answer-and-question session with 100 men and women.

The two-hour live television appearance provided a test for Royal, who is battling to reverse an alarming slide in the polls against right-wing rival Nicolas Sarkozy in the April-May presidential election.

Dressed in a white jacket and black skirt, the Socialist candidate fielded questions on pension reform, hospital care, her promise to boost the minimum wage and helping small businesses.

But she made her strongest appeal for support in response to a question from a 63-year-old woman who asked Royal whether as a woman she was ready for the challenges of the highest office.

"It's true that it's much harder for a woman, but at the same time, I think the time has come for France to have a woman as president of the republic," said Royal, who was the guest of the programme "I Want to Ask You a Question."

She listed her political achievements, noting that she had worked seven years for president Francois Mitterrand and was well-acquainted with the complexities of the presidency.

"I am at ease with my identity as a woman," Royal said. "I have a different way of doing politics and that is what is disconcerting."

"So indeed, it can be surprising, but I believe that my fundamental values are those that France needs today: family, education, security ... and economic revival through a different way of seeing things."

The mother of four appeared at ease with the audience, listening intently to the questions and providing calm answers, at times moving her hands for emphasis.

She expanded on her plans to increase small pensions and the minimum wage, and suggested in response to a question about poor housing estates that ministerial meetings could take place in those areas.

When a 60-year-old man broke down in tears as he recounted how multiple sclerosis had left him confined to a wheelchair, Royal walked over toward him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

Royal is facing a trying week after a batch of new opinion polls showed she would be roundly defeated by Sarkozy, the current interior minister, in a run-off.

Three new public opinion polls released just hours before her television appearance showed Sarkozy winning victory in a run-off vote with 53 or 54 percent, compared to 46 or 47 percent for Royal.

After starting off the New Year with a slight lead over Sarkozy, Royal has lost the edge following a string of foreign policy gaffes and squabbling within party ranks.

The former environment minister suffered her latest setback when her party's economic adviser Eric Besson quit last week in a row over the cost of her 100-point election programme that she rolled out with great fanfare on February 11.

Royal is due to announce a reorganisation of her campaign team on Thursday that she said would help her move on "to the second stage" of her bid to become France's first woman president.

She then hits the campaign trail on Tuesday, travelling to the northwestern city of Rennes for a speech on jobs, an issue foremost on the minds of voters.

Royal won the Socialist Pary nomination in November, beating two heavyweights after polls then showed that she was the only candidate who stood a chance of beating Sarkozy.

The president of the Poitou-Charentes region was seen as the party's best hope after the humiliating defeat in the 2002 election of Socialist Lionel Jospin who failed to make it to the run-off against Jacques Chirac.

Copuright AFP

SUbject: French news

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