Royal under fire for 'spending spree' manifesto

12th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 12, 2007 (AFP) - Opponents of left-wing French presidential candidate Segolene Royal savaged her new 100-point election programme on Monday for failing to spell out how it would be paid for.

PARIS, Feb 12, 2007 (AFP) - Opponents of left-wing French presidential candidate Segolene Royal savaged her new 100-point election programme on Monday for failing to spell out how it would be paid for.

With 10 weeks left before the first round of voting, Royal unveiled her presidential platform in a much-awaited speech on Sunday that her party hopes will inject new momentum into her flagging campaign.

After entering the race in a strong position, Royal has over the past month lost the edge to rightwing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, who has taken the lead in public opinion polls.

The rightwing Le Figaro said Royal had presented a "catch-all" programme, advancing ill-defined proposals and failing to spell out how the French state would pay for the new social benefits.

"There was no miracle," said Le Figaro. "When it comes to being concrete, the boldness disappears."

"How can we reduce the debt? Mystery. How can we jumpstart employment? She doesn't say," Le Figaro said.

Sunday's address was seen as crucial for Royal, whose campaign to become France's first female president ran into trouble over a series of foreign policy gaffes and her decision to hold months of public debate before unveiling her platform.

Royal promised to raise the minimum wage to 1,500 euros (1,950 dollars) from 1,250 euros, to increase small pensions by five percent and offer free health care for children under the age of 16.

She also proposed the creation of educational centres for delinquents that could be run by the military and of "citizens' juries" that would watch over government policy.  

The 53-year-old mother of four also proposed the construction of 120,000 new social housing units per year and 10,000-euro loans for young graduates.

A member of Sarkozy's party, Lionnel Luca, called Royal's speech "boring," saying she appeared as "if she was leafing through a mail-order catalogue that had only leftwing pages and where they forgot to give the prices."

The spokesman for centrist candidate Francois Bayrou from the Union for French Democracy (UDF) said Royal's promises represented "between 60 and 70 billion euros in spending."

"Madame Royal has made the same type of speech as Sarkozy. They say 'yes' to everybody," said Jean-Christophe Lagarde.

The far-right also criticised Royal as making lavish promises on social programmes.

"Segolene Royal revealed nothing new. She simply took up the same archaic themes of socialism," said Bruno Megret from the National Republican Movement (MNR).

"With her, it's always more social benefits and less wealth to fund them."

 The popular Le Parisien newspaper carried the headline "A successful speech but...", noting that Royal had sought to reassure the core of her leftist supporters during the two-hour speech in the northern suburb of Villepinte.

The public verdict on her performance is expected to come this week, when four public opinion polls are released, two of which were carried out after Sunday's speech.

A former adviser to late president Francois Mitterrand and environment minister, Royal is expected to head into a run-off in May with Sarkozy, the current interior minister and candidate of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Royal however won some praise for her programme from the left-leaning Liberation newspaper, which said she had "found her voice."

"She stood to lose everything but yesterday she won credibility."

"Victory is not guaranteed but the left now has a real reason to believe it could happen," wrote Liberation.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Presidential elections, Segolene Royal

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