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No comeback in the polls for Royal

Published on February 15, 2007

PARIS, Feb 15, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidate Segolene Royal's hopes of a comeback propelled by her new 100-point campaign platform are dimming after polls showed rival Nicolas Sarkozy still in the lead.

A CSA poll released Thursday gave Sarkozy, the interior minister and candidate of the governing right-wing party, an eight-point lead over Royal in a run-off, winning 54 percent of votes against 46 percent for the Socialist contender.

 But with 10 weeks to go before the first round of voting in April, analysts cautioned that Royal’s campaign had not gone flatline and that surprises may still be in store.

“Those who are predicting a collapse of the Royal campaign are just not being realistic,” commented Bruno Jeanbart, from the private polling firm Opinion Way.

Jeanbart said recent poll results showed a “stabilisation” in voter intentions but that this could change, notably as television coverage of the candidates intensifies.

The CSA poll was the fourth survey to be released since Royal presented her election programme in a two-hour speech Sunday that was widely seen as a chance for her to reverse the month-long slide in the polls.

Three other surveys conducted after the speech also showed Sarkozy would beat Royal in a runoff with 54 or 53 percent of votes.

It was only six weeks ago that Royal, whose soft features graced almost every magazine cover in France, was given a whisker-thin margin of victory over Sarkozy with 52 percent of votes.

The 53-year-old mother of four has since run into trouble over a string of foreign policy gaffes that critics said showed she lacked the gravitas needed to run the affairs of state.

She has angered Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for expressing support for the sovereignty of the French-speaking province of Quebec and annoyed human rights activists by praising the Chinese justice system during her trip to Beijing.

Following Sunday’s key speech, her right-wing opponents accused her of failing to spell out how the state would finance the 100 new proposals that she put forward to bolster the social safety net.

The CSA poll was the 21st survey to put Sarkozy in the lead since he was nominated on January 14 as the candidate of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

“If in the next eight days we see her holding at the same level, it will mean that she has stopped the slide, but she will certainly not have climbed back to her previous position,” said Jean-Luc Parodi, director of the Center for studies of French political life.

Parodi said Royal stood little chance of winning by picking up votes from the left as the combined support from those candidates would not be enough to carry her to victory in the second round.

“She needs to draw votes from the center and far-right. That is the condition for her election,” said Parodi.

The polls show that Royal has lost votes to centrist Francois Bayrou, of the Union for French Democracy (UDF), who has been holding steady at 12 or 14 percent.

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is garnering between 10 and 14 percent.

Four other candidates of the far left — Arlette Laguiller, Olivier Besancenot, Jose Bove and Marie-George Buffet — would win two or three percent of votes, according to polls.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Presidential election, Segolene