Trying week ahead for Segolene Royal

19th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 19, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal began a trying week Monday in her battle to bounce back in the polls as she prepared to revamp her campaign team and shine in a prime-time television show.

PARIS, Feb 19, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal began a trying week Monday in her battle to bounce back in the polls as she prepared to revamp her campaign team and shine in a prime-time television show.

  The Socialist Party candidate has seen her approval ratings drop to their lowest level yet, with opinion polls suggesting she would be soundly beaten by right-wing rival Nicolas Sarkozy in the April-May presidential election.

Sarkozy would garner 55 percent of votes in a run-off against 45 percent for Royal, according to the latest TNS-Sofres-Unilog poll published in Le Figaro on Monday.

It was the 23rd poll placing Sarkozy in the lead since he won the nomination for the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) in mid-January.

In a tacit admission that her campaign was unravelling, Royal at the weekend announced plans to overhaul the organisation of her elections team, saying there needed to be a top-to-bottom line of command. 

"The team needs to be strengthened and better structured," said Royal, who is to announce the changes later this week.

"We have to get away from self-management and restore hierarchy," she added.

Royal, who wants to become France's first woman president, faces a major test later Monday as the guest of the prime-time television show "I Have a Question to Ask You."

During the two-hour programme, 100 men and women from across the country will have an opportunity to put questions to Royal on such front-burner issues as immigration, unemployment and race relations.

Royal's campaign manager Jean-Louis Bianco said the television appearance would give the 53-year-old mother of four an opportunity to shine.

"It's the type of programme that she can pull off," said Bianco in an interview to RTL radio. "She is direct, she understands people and she can speak plainly."

Bianco also dismissed the poor showing in the polls, saying that thousands of supporters were turning out at rallies to hear Royal and that this was "a reality that is not reflected in the polls."

Some eight million viewers tuned in earlier this month to hear Sarkozy answer questions in one of the highest ratings for a political show in 15 years.

After her television appearance, Royal hits the campaign trail on Tuesday, travelling to the northwestern city of Rennes for a speech on jobs, a key issue in the campaign.

After starting off the New Year with a slight lead over Sarkozy, Royal has lost the edge to the current interior minister following a string of foreign policy gaffes and squabbling within party ranks.

Royal suffered her latest setback when her party's economic adviser Eric Besson quit last week in a row over the cost of her 100-point election programme that she rolled out with great fanfare a week ago.

Despite her troubles, Royal can take heart from a separate weekend poll showing that 79 percent of voters say the race is still wide open and that "many things can happen before April 22" when the first round of voting takes place.

A former environment minister, Royal won the Socialist Pary nomination in November, beating two heavyweights after polls then showed that she was the only candidate who stood a chance of beating Sarkozy.

The graceful former adviser to president Francois Mitterrand was seen as the party's best hope after the humiliating defeat in the 2002 election of Socialist Lionel Jospin who failed to make it to the run-off against Jacques Chirac.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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