Segolene loses her sang-froid at party rally

12th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) - The Socialist Party (PS) front-runner for the French presidency Ségolène Royal was forced onto the defensive Monday after she was accused of humiliating a young party worker during a weekend rally in Brittany.

PARIS, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) - The Socialist Party (PS) front-runner for the French presidency Ségolène Royal was forced onto the defensive Monday after she was accused of humiliating a young party worker during a weekend rally in Brittany.

In an encounter with the party's youth wing (MJS), Royal was asked by 23 year-old Nolwenn Yven for her views on schools reform and the 35 hour week, two issues on which the candidate has taken positions which are to the right of the party mainstream.

"That's it? You're sure there's nothing else? You promise you're not keeping something back. You don't want to ask me about the military as well? You're sure?" Royal retorted.

The candidate — who is seeking the PS nomination for the April presidential election in an internal vote in November — has also come under fire from some in her party for proposing military-style camps to deal with youth offenders.

When Nolwenn failed to answer and instead turned to her neighbour in the audience, Royal went on: "Come on, come on. You're not obliged to ask permission from the boy next to you. You're a woman. You can speak freely."

Interviewed by AFP, Nolwenn said afterwards that she felt "somewhat humiliated" by the experience.

"My question seemed legitimate, it was not aggressive. It was a question that as a party member I have been asking myself. I did not understand the violence of her response," she said.

Royal appeared to be under the impression that Nolwenn's question was planted by the MJS leadership, but this was denied by its president Razzye Hammadi.  "MJS members are not all brainless teletubbies," he said.

Nolwenn said that on Sunday evening Royal left a message on her telephone, expressing the view that Nolwenn was "worth more than the question you were put up to asking".

"I do not know if I should take that as an apology," she said.

 Valérie Pecresse, spokesman for the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), said Royal had lost her nerve.

"(Likely right-wing candidate) Nicolas Sarkozy and the UMP are putting forward ideas. Ségolène Royal is running after them. I am thinking about law-and-order, schools reform, the 35 hour week. Clearly this is causing her a few problems in the party.

"This weekend she had a row with the young Socialists. She lost her nerve, she got angry. I regret it because I think candidates should accept debate and dialogue, especially in their own political families," Pecresse said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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