Sarkozy and Royal flex muscles in parliamentary race

30th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

LE HAVRE, France, May 29, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his defeated Socialist rival Segolene Royal returned to the election fray on Tuesday, grabbing the campaign spotlight ahead of next month's parliamentary polls.

LE HAVRE, France, May 29, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his defeated Socialist rival Segolene Royal returned to the election fray on Tuesday, grabbing the campaign spotlight ahead of next month's parliamentary polls.

Speaking in the northern industrial port of Le Havre, Sarkozy urged voters to give his right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) the clear majority he needs to usher in sweeping economic reforms.

"France has voted for change, for a rupture with the behaviour and the ideas of the past," the 52-year-old told the rally, which was to be his only official campaign appearance ahead of the June 10 and 17 votes.

Warning of "five years of paralysis" if the left-wing opposition secures a majority of seats in the National Assembly, he told supporters: "I am asking you to give France a majority to enable it to move forwards."

"I ask you to give me the majority I need to govern, and to uphold all the commitments I have made before the French people," said the president, who renewed a pledge to start rolling out job market and tax reforms in the weeks after the legislatives.

"By electing me you showed what direction you wish to take... You have two weeks to decide whether or not to renew your trust in me," said Sarkozy, whose UMP party is poised to win a comfortable majority in the vote.

In Paris, Royal joined a line-up of Socialist Party (PS) leaders in addressing a flagship rally in a concert hall packed with some 5,000 people.

"What the right wants is hegemonic power, a steam-roller before which everything will become possible -- even the worst," charged Royal, whose party was thrown into disarray when she lost to Sarkozy earlier this month, its third consecutive presidential election defeat.

"Do you want to give full powers to an insatiable government, a government that pretends to embody left and right all by itself?" she asked, alluding to Sarkozy's decision to name four left-wingers to his government, including Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister.

Royal appealed to the 17 million people who backed her in the presidential run-off, and particularly to the youth of France's troubled suburbs who she said "voted massively for us and the values we represent."

"I want to make a very special appeal to them. Come back to the ballot box. France needs you," the 53-year-old urged.

"Come back to help us build a strong, vibrant, committed, vigiliant opposition, to block the hardest of the measures that the right is preparing."

"Do you want this strong opposition? Then you need to elect as many Socialist deputies as possible," she added, standing side by side with her partner, PS leader Francois Hollande, and party rivals for the presidential nomination Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Laurent Fabius.

Critics -- including Royal -- have attacked the decision by Sarkozy to take part in the campaign, saying a president should be above party politics.

Sarkozy has brushed off the charge, pointing out that several of his predecessors had done the same and arguing that his ambitious reform programme requires strong support from parliament.

Royal this month announced she would not be running for parliament but would help bolster the campaign of the Socialist Party as it faces the demoralising prospect of an other electoral defeat.

The latest poll shows the UMP and its centrist allies will win between 380 and 442 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, up from its current contingent of 369 seats and well above the 289 needed to secure a majority.

The Socialist Party is poised to win between 102 and 142 seats, according to the IPSOS poll published Tuesday. It currently has 149 deputies.

The Communist Party is expected to win between six and 12 seats, down from the 21 it currently holds, while the new Democratic Movement led by Francois Bayrou could win between one and six seats.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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