Royal ahead in Socialist leadership contest

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France’s Socialist Party struggles to elect a leader to challenge Sarkozy in the next presidential election.

7 November 2008
PARIS - Former presidential candidate Segolene Royal was ahead early Friday as France's Socialists voted to elect a new leader to challenge President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Royal won about 29 percent, four points ahead of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and former employment minister Martine Aubry, among six contenders whose manifestos were put to a nationwide ballot of the party's 233,000 members.
Stephane Le Foll, spokesman for outgoing party leader François Hollande, said the results of the vote were still incomplete.
With no one earning a majority, disputes over leadership are expected at a party conference later in November.
After three consecutive defeats in presidential elections, the Socialists are troubled with infighting and were unable to build opposition to Sarkozy since he took office in 2007.
Socialist minority leader in parliament Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the party could fall into "mayhem" if members fail to choose a leader.
"If no manifesto comes out on top, if they are pretty much neck and neck, then it's going to open up backroom scheming at the convention," Ayrault told Europe 1 radio.
"We need to have a clear vote or else we will have confusion and mayhem."
One of France's most popular politicians, the 58-year-old Delanoe calls for a "decidedly reformist left, that is pro-European, pro-environment and efficient" in his manifesto.
But Delanoe, France's only prominent openly-gay politician, was criticised for calling himself a "free-market advocate and a socialist" a few months before world markets were affected by the financial crisis.
Delanoe's main challenge is Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in the 2007 election after her campaign was regularly criticised by party leaders.
Royal, 55, held a Paris rally in September that was criticised within the party due to her new shorter hairstyle and 45-minute speech, compared to a comedy performance.
During her last statement to the party on Wednesday, Royal offered to reimburse party dues to motivate many disappointed members to vote.
The results were released early Friday, one week before a three-day conference begins in the eastern city of Reims to decide on a political programme and its’ leader.
Party members will formally elect a new leader on 20 November, but that will endorse the outcome of the Reims meeting.

[AFP / Carole Landry / Expatica]

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