Royal's style: is she a leader or a loner?

20th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

POITIERS, France, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP) - The Socialist candidate for France's 2007 presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, has been elusive over her policies should she become head of state.

POITIERS, France, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP) - The Socialist candidate for France's 2007 presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, has been elusive over her policies should she become head of state.

But in her home region of Poitou-Charentes in western France, where she currently presides over the regional council, her style of management is on show for all to see.

She keeps up "a fast rhythm that is sometimes difficult to follow," one regional official said.

Since taking over the council in 2004, she has gained a reputation for moving fast and achieving concrete goals with the aim of underlining her "proximity" to the people — the same populist tactic she has employed to become the Socialist's champion for president.

The main issues she has pursued are the environment, education, and employment.

Her programmes have included: developing bio-fuels, giving free books to school students, and establishing job-creation subsidies.

More original, she has introduced a flat one-euro train fare in the region one day per month and supplied thousands of pairs of slippers for boarding school pupils.

Royal's detractors have sneered that the measures are mostly piecemeal and lack any overarching vision. They also argue that such a strategy would fail if taken to a national scale.

"She tends to support little subsidies more than big projects," said her main opponent in the region, Elisabeth Morin, whom Royal ousted as regional council president. She said Royal was "a hard woman who takes decisions alone".

"The way Ségolène Royal manages her team is unusual," admitted a Royal ally, Greens Party member Marie Legrand, who is the regional council's vice-president.

"The ship doesn't list as long as issues are moving forward," she said.

Royal's determination has earned her an image among many here as bordering on autocracy, with fears that, if elected French president, she will rule with heavy-handed authoritarianism.

Royal has defended herself from the accusation.

"I assume my authority. Because we live in a world that needs references, needs people who make decisions after consulting.

"In a man, we could say he is building respect, but for a woman it's seen as authoritarianism," she said.

In any case, the friction generated over her leadership style had little effect on her popularity among Socialist members who voted in their party's primary last week to choose their presidential candidate.

In the region of Poitou-Charentes, 80 percent of the ballots went to Royal, significantly more than the 62 percent she collected nationwide.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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