Update: Royal bounces back after TV appearance

21st February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 21, 2007 (AFP) - French Socialist Segolene Royal received a much-needed boost to her presidential campaign Wednesday, when for the first time in weeks a poll showed her back almost on level pegging with her rightwing rival Nicolas Sarkozy.

PARIS, Feb 21, 2007 (AFP) - French Socialist Segolene Royal received a much-needed boost to her presidential campaign Wednesday, when for the first time in weeks a poll showed her back almost on level pegging with her rightwing rival Nicolas Sarkozy.

The CSA survey -- taken after her appearance Monday on a television election special -- showed her at 49 percent of the vote in a second round run-off with Sarkozy, a full four percentage points higher than in a similar poll taken before the broadcast.

The poll also showed Royal actually beating Sarkozy in the multi-candidate first round of the election, with 29 percent of votes to the rightwinger's 28 percent.

"Royal breathes easier," wrote the Parisien, the popular newspaper that published the poll. "The CSA poll shows that the Socialist candidate, who some said was politically asphyxiated, is doing better."

Royal won high points for her television performance, appearing at ease as she answered a wide range of questions from a studio audience -- on boosting the minimum wage, pension reform, hospital care and even euthanasia.

Some nine million viewers tuned in to watch her on "I Have a Question to Ask You", more than the 8.2 million who saw Sarkozy on the same programme earlier this month.

Buoyed by the record audience ratings, Royal appeared confident as she was cheered by some 10,000 supporters at a rally in the northwestern city of Rennes late Tuesday.

"Here is where we begin our march towards victory," said Royal.

The 53-year-old mother of four has been battling to reverse a slide in the polls since mid-January when Sarkozy, the current interior minister, won the nomination of the governing rightwing party.

The former adviser to president Francois Mitterrand failed to stage a comeback in the polls after she unveiled her 100-point elections programme ten days ago.

Asked in an interview with Le Parisien to comment on Royal's TV success, Sarkozy shot back: "Compassion is not a policy and lack of precision is not a strategy."

With two months to go before the first round of voting in April, Royal is reorganising her campaign team in a bid to halt internal squabbling within the Socialist Party.

The campaign lineup due to be announced on Thursday is expected to include more women and a strengthened hierarchy to bring dissenters into line.

But the Socialists' upbeat mood was marred by the party's former economics chief Eric Besson who broke a week-long silence Wednesday to explain his reasons for slamming the door on the party.

Besson said he had resigned after falling victim to "personal attacks" and a smear campaign by Royal's entourage.

In a letter obtained by AFP, Besson said he "did not support the manner in which Segolene Royal's campaign is being conducted."

He also said that he had "clashed" with Francois Hollande, Royal's partner and Socialist Party leader, over the cost of the candidate's 100-point election programme.

The party on Wednesday released an estimate of 35 billion euros (46 billion dollars) as the net cost of the election programme that includes boosting the minimum wage, increasing pensions and expanding other social benefits.

Sarkozy has said his package of promises will cost 31.7 billion euros, but independent analysts claim both sides are under-estimating the cost.

The Entreprise Institute, a business leaders' think tank, says Royal's elections programme will cost 63 billion euros while Sarkozy would spend between 49 and 51 billion euros to make good on his promises.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article