After initially riding high in polls after winning her party's nomination in November Royal lost the political initiative to her chief rival Nicolas Sarkozy by refusing to detail her manifesto.

Consultative process

The policies in the presidential pact were drawn up following weeks of nationwide consultation,  including 6,000 "participative debates".

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The woman aiming to be France's first Madame la Presidente

They concentrate primarily on social, economic and environmental issues.

The manifesto contains promises to boost "small pensions" by five percent, to re-negotiate and "consolidate" the 35-hour work week, to increase the minimum wage and establish military-type boot camps to deal with young offenders.

She has also included controversial plans to set up "citizen juries" to evaluate the work of parliamentarians, give parents a greater choice over where to school their children and do more to regulate bank fees.

"I feel today I can propose to you something more than a platform - a pact of honor, a presidential pact that I propose to everyone, the most vulnerable and the strong, those who have been our supporters all along and those who have not, because France needs all its people," the former environment minister told a crowd, that Socialist party officials said numbered 20,000.

Royal says her "listening phase" has borne fruit and on Sunday defended her unconventional approach to campaigning, that has attracted criticism, primarily her decision to wait till just 10 weeks before the vote to release her manifesto.

"You can no longer bear that programmes are drawn up in the dark and forgotten as quickly as they are written," her speech said.

Crossover votes

Sarkozy, in an attempt to steal some of Royal's thunder, held his own rally in Paris on Sunday.

Sarkozy is trying to soften his image to
appeal to voters on the left [AFP]
He has been trying to soften his image to appeal to voters on the left, as both candidates campaign for all-important crossover votes.

On Sunday he criticised Royal by arguing that her ideas cater only to Socialist Party members.

"I want to speak to the French, all the French," he said. "For me, they are all equal in rights and duties. That's the difference."

Royal and Sarkozy head a sizeable field of presidential candidates aiming to succeed Jacques Chirac who, in a television interview broadcast on Sunday, gave the biggest hint yet that he is ready to end his 40-year political career.

"There is without doubt a life after politics. Until death," Chirac says in the interview, according to leaks in the press.