Segolene says she wants to represent 'courage'

21st August 2006, Comments 0 comments

FRANGY EN BRESSE, France, Aug 20, 2006 (AFP) - Ségolène Royal, the frontrunner in polls to become the next president of France, on Sunday cranked up the campaign against her main rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

FRANGY EN BRESSE, France, Aug 20, 2006 (AFP) - Ségolène Royal, the frontrunner in polls to become the next president of France, on Sunday cranked up the campaign against her main rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

In a speech in this eastern French town marking the end of the summer recess for her Socialist Party, she compared her style to that of former president François Mitterrand and vowed to wage "a decisive battle" against the ruling right.

Voters, she said, had a clear choice between the "courage" and "need for deep change" she stands for and the "brutality" and "inertia" of Sarkozy's conservatives.

"Two visions of France and two opposing conceptions of the exercise of power — that is what is at stake in the presidential elections in eight months time," she told a crowd of more than 2,000.

She specifically homed in on Sarkozy's hard-line immigration policies, calling them "intolerable" and exhorting people who wanted change in the country to rally behind her.

The address was calibrated to consolidate party support for her candidacy to succeed incumbent President Jacques Chirac in elections due in April.

Although Chirac, 73, has not ruled out running for a third mandate, that is widely seen as unlikely.

While Royal's immediate priority is winning the Socialist Party's nomination in November, most people in France believe it is foregone conclusion that the election will come down to Ségolène versus Sarko, as each is known familiarly.

The latest survey results give Royal, a 52-year-old former minister and mother of four, a comfortable lead over both her Socialist rivals and 51-year-old Sarkozy.

A survey by the CSA institute to be published in Monday's Le Parisien newspaper showed 54 percent of French people wanted her to be the party's 2007 presidential candidate, well ahead of her nearest rival Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister, on 23 percent.

A separate survey carried out by the IFOP institute and published Sunday by the Dimanche Ouest France newspaper, gave Royal a clear lead over Sarkozy, 55 to 42 percent.

It confirmed that Royal is the only Socialist capable of beating Sarkozy, who has made an ambitious drive for the presidency by rallying all the right behind him and employing US-style media-savvy campaign tactics.

The rise of Royal over more experienced Socialist heavyweights such as popular former culture minister Jack Lang and former prime minister Laurent Fabius has jolted Sarkozy's camp.

Patrick Devedjian, the interior minister's political advisor, admitted to Sunday's Le Parisien newspaper that "the presidential elections will be difficult. ... The campaign will be decisive."

The Socialists have no choice but to nominate Royal, he said, "because she is the only one (in the party) who can win."

But Brice Hortefeux, a junior interior minister and high-ranking official in the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party that Sarkozy leads, said that Royal was simply "posing" while Sarkozy represented a real "break" with France's often stifling politics.

He dismissed Royal's popularity as a "wave" that would soon break.

François Patriat, a Socialist politician who hosted Royal's visit on the weekend to Burgundy, described her momentum in similar terms, but said it was more a "tsunami" that would sweep all in its path.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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