Socialists approve left-wing election platform

7th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 7, 2006 (AFP) - France's opposition Socialists (PS) on Wednesday agreed a strongly left-wing platform for next year's presidential election, which was immediately endorsed by the party's runaway favourite for the nomination, Segolene Royal.

PARIS, June 7, 2006 (AFP) - France's opposition Socialists (PS) on Wednesday agreed a strongly left-wing platform for next year's presidential election, which was immediately endorsed by the party's runaway favourite for the nomination, Segolene Royal.

Royal, 52, has angered the party hierarchy in the last week with headline-grabbing pronouncements in favour of military-style detention centers for young hooligans and against the 35-hour week -- the PS's key social reform from its last term in office.

But speaking after the party's 73-member National Bureau approved the 2007 manifesto, Royal said she would be bound by its provisions.

"The programme will be the programme of every candidate for the presidential election. Of course it will be. That's what it is for," she told RTL radio.

Entitled "Together making change work," the 40-page programme includes commitments to roll back many of the legislative reforms of President Jacques Chirac's second mandate, and boost domestic consumption with a 25-percent increase in the minimum wage over five years.

The 35-hour week is to be "extended to all workers", a 2003 law increasing contribution periods for pensions will be repealed, and so too will be the New Employment Contract (CNE), Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's bid to liberalise the labour law for small companies.

The programme also calls for same-sex marriage and adoptions, a reduction in nuclear energy, and constitutional reforms to increase the powers of the National Assembly in relation to the president.

The overall aim of the programme is to "move to the left and transform society ... in the face of the dominance of world capital," according to the text, which must now be approved in a vote later this month by the PS's 200,000 members.

The Socialists are to designate their candidate for the 2007 race after a further grass-roots ballot in November, with Royal facing competition from party "elephants" including former ministers Laurent Fabius, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Lionel Jospin.

With Royal surging in the polls -- she is consistently shown to be the only Socialist who can defeat right-wing favourite Nicolas Sarkozy -- many in the party fear she will use her popularity in the country to justify positions that are at odds with PS orthodoxy.

Several important figures in the party have openly attacked her for running a personal media campaign. Others say her expressions of support for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a tough line on juvenile crime show she is deviating to the right in search of votes.

"Sarkozy is running after (far-right leader Jean-Marie) Le Pen, and Royal is running after Sarkozy ... She is cutting the party in two," said former education minister Claude Allegre.

A mother of four whose partner is PS First Secretary Francois Hollande, Royal served in junior ministerial posts in Socialist governments in the 1990s and is currently president of the regional council in Poitou-Charentes on the Atlantic coast.

Pollsters say that her popularity is owed mainly to her image as a new style of politician, independent of the party apparatus, but they warn that her lack of experience and identifiable programme could be a liability.

In an editorial Wednesday, the conservative daily Le Figaro said Royal was deliberately taking positions opposed to the party hierarchy -- on the 35-hour week and youth crime -- in order to court public opinion.

"Her calculation is to create by the summer such a distance between her and the elephants that her lead in the polls will make her the inevitable choice as candidate," it said.

But it warned that having now bound herself to the manifesto, Royal will find her room for manoeuvre increasingly confined.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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