Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Ségolène Royal - a rising star in French politics?

by whataboutbob 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...

by Fran on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 03:10:22 PM EST
More information:
Is France too chauvinist for a female leader?


If you were to put Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jacques Attali in a small room, they would quarrel about almost everything. The veteran far-right leader and the owlish former Mitterrand aide, now an all-purpose fixer and guru, come from opposite corners of the wrestling ring of French politics and life.

But the ultra-right nationalist and the socialist apparatchik do agree on one thing. Both say Ségolène Royal will be the first woman to become president of the French Republic.

They are not the only ones to make such a rash prediction. I attended a Socialist rally in Mme Royal's home region of Poitou-Charente a couple of years ago. The hall, in the small, working-class town of La Couronne, near Angoulème, throbbed with enthusiasm for "Ségo", the elegant, cool, beautiful daughter of a right-wing army officer. The man next to me, a 50-something local councillor, said: "I have known it for a long time. People in this region have known it for a long time. Ségolène will be the first woman to become president."

Seems to be a very interesting and fascinating woman.

and an interview

by Fran on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 03:18:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i will never vote for an ENArque anymore

never never

it's time to change

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 06:19:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The dynamics of her couple are interesting - she provides a good way for Hollande to "run" for the Elysée while keeping the ocntrol of the party machinery. They are both tough - and yet underestimated - politicla fighters.

She is generally seen as more to the left than Hollande on a number of issues, but unless I am mistaken, she supported the "oui" in the referendum campaign.

This week, she was photogrpahed with her 13 year old daughtee. She created a minor scandal 13 years ago when she appeared in pictures taken right after the birth of that little girl. It was seen as a tasteless "exploitation" of her personal life for political gain.

I wouldn't mind voting for her at all.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 03:20:27 PM EST
Wow, just when I thought the French Presidential elections are a finished issue due to the squabble of the same old egomaniacs on the Left, this happens.

(BTW, I'm off for now, but I think someone - maybe, by closeness, Fran? - should do a diary on the sea-change  Styrian elections last Sunday: SPÖ win and conservative defeat for the first time after 50 years, Greens stay but Haider's FPÖ and the breakaway BZÖ gang drop out of the Landtag, Communists in after also a very long time.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 03:52:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She did campaign for the "oui".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 04:23:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean with that afew? Is it to indicate what you feel is her political stance on Europe? I don't know your personal opinion on the European Constitution, nor did I see any Snark Technology, so I can't make heads or tails from your comment.

And, if I may say so, the European Constitution could (can) be explained in so many ways that anyone could righteously vote against it or for it - and still be a formidable candidate... Politically seen, the European Constitution meant for France a steadier hold on controlling European affairs. On the other side, accepting the Constitution would sacrifice a number of dearly cherished French privileges. So voting both yes and no would give a politician credit - in my mind. That, in a very, very brief is how I remember the analysis for France's position during the run-up to the referendum.

Care to enlighten?

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 07:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My comment was a brief reply to Jérôme's above, where he said he thought she was in favour of the "oui" during the referendum campaign. I was simply confirming that he was right -- Royal did, as a matter of fact, support the "oui".

(I don't know how you set your preferences, but you can have the comments threaded so it's easy to see what is a reply to someone else's comment).

As to the referendum, I think (don't want to force Jérôme's hand on this) that he and I agree that Socialist leaders (essentially Fabius) who campaigned for the "non" were motivated by personal ambition alone, and did a great deal of harm by using demagogy to divide the left. He (again, disclaimer, he's free to set the record straight if I'm wrong) and I are more favourable to PS leaders who were on the "oui" side. Personally, I wouldn't support a "non" candidate like Fabius.

Hope that makes it clearer.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 4th, 2005 at 01:38:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to give a slightly different angle on the IHT's take above, when they speak of her defence of the "traditional family" and her opposition to pornography: these may have gained her sympathy on the right, but, since she is not married to Hollande (though they have four children), she is hardly a traditional family-values icon. Her opposition to pornography also comes less from a traditionalist or religious point of view as from a feminist one.

Something she manages to do well is have principles that are not exactly fashionable these days (a bourgeois couple with 4 kids living in union libre is a rare phenomenon), yet get herself across as someone who is acceptable to all. She makes herself and her principles respected, and she appears as someone clearcut, with a good mind and her heart in the right (left?) place. She doesn't strike me as someone who'd fade under the pressure of a very big election. And the male idiots who try to patronize her do so at their own peril.

OK, you've got my drift: Vive Ségolène!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 04:38:09 PM EST
Very interesting. Thanks for bringing Ms. Royal to our attention!

She sounds, at the very least, like a breath of fresh air after so many years of first Mitterand and then Chirac.

Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

by d52boy on Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 09:07:36 PM EST
She became the first ever sitting cabinet member to take a maternity leave (although a short one) in 1992; she was the Environment Minister under Prime Minister Pierre Beregovoy. Her daughter is now 13, as noted above.

Something not mentioned in this thread: last year, she was elected president of the Poitou-Charentes region, in southwestern France, a position of power, somehow on par with the one held by her significant other, Francois Hollande.

Sadly, the ironic/outright hostile comments, even in her own party, didn't surprise me (much); French pols stay in office for decades, often accumulating several of them like mayor and senator at the same time, and just don't know when to quit. Not much space for newcomers then, or for women.

by Bernard (bernard) on Tue Oct 4th, 2005 at 02:50:35 AM EST
by GreenSooner (greensooner@NOSPAMintergate.com) on Tue Oct 4th, 2005 at 09:31:01 AM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]