Royal pulling even with Sarkozy in French polls

26th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 24, 2007 (AFP) - French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal hit the hustings with new impetus Saturday as an opinion poll showed her gaining ground on her centre-right rival Nicolas Sarkozy.


PARIS, Feb 24, 2007 (AFP) - French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal hit the hustings with new impetus Saturday as an opinion poll showed her gaining ground on her centre-right rival Nicolas Sarkozy.

In a show of internal Socialist unity, she held a high-profile gathering with Laurent Fabius who had criticised her "hazy" politics as the two fought it out for the party's nomination late last year.

"Now, dear Segolene, it is one for all and all for one," Fabius told the crowd gathered at an auditorium in the north of France.

Royal spoke of a "modern left of the 21st century" that she defined as "a new approach, with adapted values from the left to accompany transformations and to ease concerns."

The IFOP poll conducted Thursday and Friday says frontrunners Nicolas Sarkozy and Royal would win 28 percent of the vote each in the first round, scheduled for April 22.

In the May 6 second round, Sarkozy would gain 50.5 percent, compared to Royal's 49.5 percent, according to the poll, to be published in French Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

The poll numbers illustrate a turnaround for Royal, who had fallen behind Sarkozy following what were viewed as missteps in her campaign. Critics have argued that she lacks experience for the job and that her proposals would prove too costly.

According to the poll, she has gained 2.5 points in the first round, while Sarkozy, the candidate for current President Jacques Chirac's UMP party, has lost four points.

Royal rebounded following a well-received television appearance on Monday, where she answered questions from the public. The poll shows her gaining in popularity among working class voters.

Meanwhile, UMP party sources said Saturday that Sarkozy would quit his post as interior minister on March 23 at the latest. He has faced criticism for continuing in his post while he conducts his campaign.

The next-closest candidate behind the two leaders is centrist Francois Bayrou of the UDF party. The recent poll shows him with 17 percent in the first round.

Far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, who shocked the country by making it to the second round in 2002, scored 11.5 percent in the poll, an increase of 0.5 percent.

His National Front party assembled for its presidential convention in Lille in northern France on Saturday amid concerns that he would not be able to collect the required 500 signatures necessary from mayors to allow him to run in the election.

The gathering was marred by protesters declaring "No to the FN," the French initials for National Front. Police put the number of protesters at 1,300, while organizers said there were between 3,000 and 4,000.

Le Pen was to present his presidential program to the meeting on Sunday.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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