Royal upsets PS bigwigs with schools reform call

7th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 6, 2006 (AFP) - French presidential front-runner Ségolène Royal has once again upset bigwigs inside her own Socialist Party (PS), this time with a call to liberalise the school system which brought a ringing condemnation Wednesday from the party hierarchy.

PARIS, Sept 6, 2006 (AFP) - French presidential front-runner Ségolène Royal has once again upset bigwigs inside her own Socialist Party (PS), this time with a call to liberalise the school system which brought a ringing condemnation Wednesday from the party hierarchy.

In a speech earlier this week, Royal — who is France's most popular politician according to a recent opinion poll — questioned one of the PS's educational taboos: the so-called "scholastic map" which obliges parents to send children to schools designated by the authorities.

The "map" has been regularly attacked by the political right, which says it removes parental choice and blocks educational improvement, but for the left it is an important mechanism for ensuring that all schools have a social and academic balance.

However Royal said in the southern Lozere department that, "We need to loosen the constraints associated with the 'map' — because some people have the feeling they are being dumped in underperforming establishments."

Her remarks set off a storm of protest at a meeting of the PS's National Bureau in Paris Tuesday evening, newspapers reported, with several leading party figures accusing her of breaking with agreed policy.

Eventually Royal's own partner — party first secretary François Hollande — was forced to intervene. In remarks interpreted by those present as a slap on Royal's wrist, he said that "the only policies that count are the ones that are on our manifesto".

The spat was symptomatic of the growing tensions inside the top ranks of the Socialists, with just a month remaining for would-be presidential candidates to present their names for an internal vote of party members. France's presidential elections take place next April.

If Royal, 52, remains by far the most popular among the public, several other PS leaders are considering a bid, including former prime minister and twice failed presidential candidate Lionel Jospin, 69, and Laurent Fabius, 60, who served as prime minister in the 1980s.

Royal's rivals have struggled to suppress indignation at what they believe is a campaign built on image rather than substance, as well as her forays on to ground normally held by the right. She has called for military-style camps to discipline young offenders, and criticised the 35 hour working week.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper Wednesday, Jospin made a clear attack on Royal. Saying that he disagreed on practically everything with the likely right-wing contender Nicolas Sarkozy, he added that at least they had one thing in common: "Because he takes politics seriously."

He also said that "the natural conclusion of gender equality is that one has the right to attack a woman in the same way one can a man".

Meanwhile a row broke out at a leading financial newspaper over allegations that the editor suppressed part of an opinion poll which showed that Royal is the most trusted of the likely presidential contenders "on economic and social matters".

The CSA survey appeared in Monday's La Tribune, but without the section showing that Royal enjoys 54 percent support, as opposed to 49 percent for Sarkozy.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article