Socialists reject alliance with centrist Bayrou

16th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 16, 2007 (AFP) - A week ahead of voting in the multi-candidate first round of the French election, supporters of the socialist Segolene Royal on Saturday rejected a pact with the centrist Francois Bayrou in order to keep out rightwing favourite Nicolas Sarkozy.

PARIS, April 16, 2007 (AFP) - A week ahead of voting in the multi-candidate first round of the French election, supporters of the socialist Segolene Royal  on Saturday rejected a pact with the centrist Francois Bayrou in order to keep out rightwing favourite Nicolas Sarkozy.

They were reacting to an appeal in Saturday's edition of Le Monde newspaper from socialist elder statesman Michel Rocard, who urged an alliance between left and centre in order ensure Sarkozy's defeat.

"Nothing essential separates ... socialists and centrists. On employment, housing, debt, education and Europe our priorities are broadly the same," said Rocard, 76, who was prime minister under president Francois Mitterrand.

The appeal was welcomed by Bayrou, 55, who heads the small Union for French Democracy (UDF) and is in third place in the opinion polls behind Sarkozy and Royal.

"Things are moving," Bayrou told France-Inter radio. "My political intuition has now been validated by Michel Rocard. We've really got to move beyond the barriers of the past, and offer France a new kind of political action and a different ruling majority."

But Socialist Party (PS) leaders rejected the alliance proposal -- at least until the first round on April 22.

"Rocard hasn't got a clue," said Royal's spokesman Vincent Peillon.

"For decades the UDF has been a party of the right. Bayrou has always been on the right. This buffoonery has got to stop. Left-wing voters have got see that if their priority is the fight against poverty, then they most vote for neither Sarkozy nor Bayrou."

Earlier PS leader Francois Hollande -- who is Royal's partner -- said that "there is no conceivable alliance between the left and a party of the right."

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister, gave a more nuanced reaction, saying that "the issue right now is not about forming an anti-Sarkozy front. That will no doubt come about, but today the issue is the first round."

Bayrou has positioned himself as a candidate who can transcend the left-right divide, but in the past the UDF has been consistently an ally of the right and Bayrou has himself been in governments led by the party of President Jacques Chirac.

Only the two leading candidates in the first round of the election qualify for the decisive round two on May 6. Sarkozy, head of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), appears certain to win through, and polls show that in the run-off he would beat Royal but lose to Bayrou.

Analysts said that Royal, 53, needs to maintain her left-wing credentials ahead of the first round in order to stop votes leaking to far-left candidates. But she has to keep a door open to Bayrou in the hope of an endorsement from his camp if she qualifies for round two.

The latest opinion poll released Saturday by Ipsos/Dell put Sarkozy on 29.5 percent, Royal on 24.5 percent, Bayrou on 17.5 percent and far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on 14 percent. Sarkozy would beat Royal in the run-off by 53.5 percent to 46.5, but lose to Bayrou by 47 percent to 53.

On Friday evening Sarkozy, 52, visited a high-immigration neighbourhood east of Paris for a discussion with young people, defying critics who say he is unable to venture into the "banlieues" because of his deep unpopularity there.

The candidate held an hour of often heated debate with around 100 people -- some in traditional Muslim dress - in a civic centre in the town of Meaux.

"When I see you on the television, I want to vomit. You scare me. Here, we all live together: blacks, Arabs, Chinese," said one man.

Sarkozy defended his policy of "positive discrimination" in favour of the disadvantaged and repeated his promise for a "Marshall plan" to be operational by the start of 2008, offering jobs and training for 250,000 young people.

"No other politician has done as much as I have to ensure that French Muslims live in dignity, equality and honesty," he said.

As interior minister Sarkozy set up the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), the first ever official Islamic body in France, and appointed the first Muslim "prefect" -- the state's representative in the 96 French departments.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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