Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Royal enters French leadership race

AFP , VITROLLES, FRANCE

French socialist and popular favorite Segolene Royal on Friday officially entered the race to be the country's next president, announcing that she is a candidate for her party's nomination, along with ex-finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Royal, 53, leader in the opinion polls for the left, threw her hat into the ring for the elections in April at a socialist meeting in Vitrolles, southern France.

"I accept taking on this mission for the benefit of France and the trials that go with it -- even as I want to protect my family -- and so I present myself for the vote of the Socialists, and then I hope for the judgement of the French people in winning, on merit, their confidence in April 2007," she said to wild applause.

"Accomplishing the profound changes which are hoped for, representing the nation and ensuring that the state functions well -- that is the task which awaits us," she added.

She pledged to "revive the country" and "give it every opportunity" against a right-wing she accused of wanting to "unmake France."

Royal, head of the Poitou-Charentes regional council and a former minister, was boosted this week by an opinion poll saying 54 percent of Socialist Party (PS) supporters backed her.

The PS, led by Royal's partner and father of her four children Francois Hollande, is to designate its presidential candidate after a vote of some 200,000 party members next month, with a possible second round a week later.

Royal's main socialist rivals are Strauss-Kahn, who entered the race earlier on Friday, and former prime minister Laurent Fabius, who declared himself a candidate as far back as January.

Former culture minister Jack Lang is also a contender, while ex-prime minister and unsuccessful presidential candidate in both 1995 and 2002, Lionel Jospin, withdrew on Thursday.

Hollande said yesterday he would not be standing. He told the daily Dauphine Libere that he would make an announcement officially on Oct. 3 at the end of the party meeting.

The PS nominee will be leading the left's campaign to retake the presidency for the first time since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

If Royal wins she will be the first woman president in French history.

Polls say she has a better than even chance of beating Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is almost certain to be the contender for the ruling center-right.

President Jacques Chirac is believed unlikely to enter the campaign.

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