Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 02:22:12 PM EST
From IHT, an interesting story about a possible new rising moderate-Left Socialist star in France: Ségolène Royal
PARIS Ségolène Royal is popular, experienced, a tireless campaigner and, at a time when a disenchanted French electorate is searching for novelty, among the youngest of the top politicians in her embattled Socialist Party.
But when Royal, 52, said last week that she was considering running for president in 2007, she unleashed an onslaught of attacks and ridicule from her own camp.(...)
Royal, who has held ministerial portfolios for the environment, schools and the family, continued working as she raised her children, now aged 13 to 20. This has burnished her reputation in a country of working mothers; she has also scored points on the right through her defense of the traditional family and her fight against pornography.
Although she is not especially popular in her own party, her victory in last year's regional elections, when she garnered an absolute majority of the vote on the home turf of Jean-Pierre Raffarin, then France's prime minister, raised her profile across the nation. The victory became a symbol of voters' rejection of the government and their hunger for fresh faces.
Can anyone in our French community give us more information about Royal?
More from this article:
With 18 months until the presidential election, certain factors bode well for the Socialists. The party won landslide victories in the regional and European elections last year, the center-right government remains unpopular and a rebellious mood prevails in France.
Since then the Socialists have failed to agree on a program, torn between those who want to veer to the left and a more reformist wing. The no vote in the referendum on the European charter intensified those divisions.
"We have to redefine the political line of the party and assure its stability," said Royal, who along with Hollande and Lang is in the reformist camp. She said a party split was unlikely, but added, "We have to be vigilant. Most importantly, we have to make sure that the level of the debate does not degenerate."
Some say the media hype around Royal may in fact bolster Hollande's bid to rise to the highest office by capitalizing on the power-couple effect, à la Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Royal, a former government minister who now presides over the Poitou-Charentes region of western France, is the only women to head one of the country's 22 regions. She rose in the ranks of the Socialist Party in tandem with François Hollande, the current party chairman and the father of her four children.
Hollande is another possible candidate to succeed President Jacques Chirac - but Royal consistently outscores him in opinion polls. Within days of a much-talked-about interview this month with the magazine Paris-Match, in which Royal first hinted at her possible candidacy, a poll by the Ifop institute ranked her the second most popular potential Socialist presidential candidate, trailing Lang by only one percentage point.
The squabbling over Royal's potential candidacy highlights the internal rivalries in a party still reeling from its humiliating defeat in the last presidential election, in 2002, and the divisive referendum on the European constitution in May. But it also speaks loudly about attitudes toward women among leading members of the French political class.
The issue Royal faces is primarily within the political class:
According to Marc Lazar, professor of political science at Sciences Po in Paris, the fault lies not with voters but with the political classes.
"France is ready for a woman president, but the political elites are not," he said. "Ségolène Royal has a real potential with public opinion. But you can't become a candidate unless you have a network in your party."
According to a survey by the BVA institute this year, 85 percent of French voters are prepared to elect a woman president.
If Royal is indeed a good candidate, the voters are ready...but what is needed to make the French Socialist Party ready?
Is Royal someone who could unify the Socialist party, and actually get elected? What's her strengths and weaknesses? Very curious and interested to hear more...