Socialists' Royal defends 'people power' tactics

21st November 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP) - Ségolène Royal, the newly-nominated socialist candidate for France's presidential election, on Monday defended her trademark concept of "participative democracy" as she brushed off charges of populism.

PARIS, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP) - Ségolène Royal, the newly-nominated socialist candidate for France's presidential election, on Monday defended her trademark concept of "participative democracy" as she brushed off charges of populism.

Speaking on national television news, Royal said she wanted to use the coming months to look outside the party for fresh ideas on education, employment, poverty reduction and the environment — which she laid out as key issues for the April election.

"Now that the socialists have talked a lot amongst themselves, we are going to turn to the French people, to win their trust," she told TF1 news.

"There are a lot of ideas in the socialist programme — but we must go one step further in tackling all these questions," said Royal, who won a sweeping victory in the Socialist Party (PS) nomination vote last week.

"Let us not be afraid of new ideas," she said.

During the internal party campaign, the 53-year-old former junior minister was repeatedly accused of lacking substance on economic and foreign policy — and of countering hard questioning with vague, populist slogans.

Asked whether she intended to let the whims of public opinion dictate the coming campaign, Royal defended her stance.

"A leader must accept that he, by himself, does not have all the answers," argued the left-wing candidate, who refers regularly in her speeches to the "collective intelligence" of the French people.

She said she planned a two-part campaign, first listening to the widest possible spectrum of the public — before "making decisions and explaining what values guided those decisions".

Royal also took the opportunity to swipe at her likely rival, the centre-right Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was facing attack from within his own camp on Monday for stifling opposition to his election bid.

Asked which candidate she would prefer to face, Royal replied "That is up to them to decide" before adding: "I can only hope the chosen candidate has as much legitimacy" as that produced by the socialist nomination battle.

Though Sarkozy, 51, enjoys the support of the vast majority of the 293,000 Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) members, he is regarded with suspicion by a section of the party linked to President Jacques Chirac, who openly air the idea of an alternative candidate.

Ahead of the socialist ballot last week, polls consistently pointed to Royal as the only candidate capable of challenging Sarkozy — and vice versa — in the election next year.

A string of polls suggests the contest between the two is too close to call — although a survey conducted shortly after her nomination suggested Royal would narrowly defeat Sarkozy in a presidential run-off.

According to the IFOP polling institute, which questioned 817 people, Royal would secure 51 percent of voting intentions — up four points since last month — compared to 49 percent for Sarkozy.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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