Strauss-Kahn tosses hat into presidential ring

29th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 29, 2006 (AFP) - Former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 57, officially entered the race for the French presidency Friday, announcing that he is a candidate for the Socialist Party (PS) nomination.

PARIS, Sept 29, 2006 (AFP) - Former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 57, officially entered the race for the French presidency Friday, announcing that he is a candidate for the Socialist Party (PS) nomination.

"I am a candidate. Today things begin. We are moving out of the virtual and into the real," Strauss-Kahn said at the town-hall of the Paris suburb of Sarcelles where he is deputy-mayor.

The PS is to designate its contender after a vote of some 200,000 party members on November 16, in which the head of the Poitou-Charentes regional council Ségolène Royal is the favourite.

Official declarations for the internal party race must be lodged between Saturday and Tuesday.

Royal was to make a speech Friday evening in the southern town of Vitrolles, amid predictions she will formally announce that she is running. A third likely challenger is the prime minister Laurent Fabius.

Elections for the presidency take place next April, with Royal and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) the two frontrunners.

"I am convinced that first of all the socialists and later all the French will realise that I am the best rampart against the politics of the right," said Strauss-Kahn, who is seen as a social-democrat on the right-wing of the party.

An opinion poll this week showed that Strauss-Kahn had just 11 percent backing among PS supporters, compared to 54 percent for Royal. Fabius had three percent, and two other outsiders François Hollande and Jack Lang had seven and four percent.

However the poll was taken before the withdrawal of former prime minister Lionel Jospin, who had 21 percent support.

The choice of PS candidate also rests with card-carrying members, who are reckoned to be less smitten by Royal than party supporters among the public. No poll has yet been taken of PS members.

"We can expect surprises. Nothing has been decided ... Polls taken months in advance never give the winner," Strauss-Kahn said.

Strauss-Kahn's best hope is to form a blocking majority with other contenders to prevent Royal reaching 50 percent on November 16. A run-off between the two top candidates would then take place a week later.

Strauss-Kahn served from 1997 to 1999 as finance minister in Jospin's government, during which he was responsible for a wave of privatisations. He also distanced himself from the key reform of the period — the 35 hour week.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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