Madame la Presidente?

The woman aiming to become France’s first Madame la Presidente.

Royal is hoping to capitalise on her
support among the public

On the road to the presidency, and into the history books.

Segolene Royale could now become France’s first female president after convincingly securing the Socialist party’s nomination for next year’s election.

The 53-year-old may be relatively inexperienced, but her pragmatism and glamour have made her popular with the public and after 12 years of a right-wing presidency, popularity is one thing the Socialist party is desperately looking for.

Royal has accused her political opponents of chauvinism and played on negative remarks made by her rivals for the presidential candidacy.

At a recent campaign rally she provoked laughter among supporters after quoting a comment made by her rival for the candidacy and a former prime minister, Laurent Fabius, who when asked of Royal’s presidential ambitions, was reported to have asked “who is going to stay at home and look after the children.”

Causing debate

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former finance minister who finished second in the Socialist vote, reacted angrily to suggestions from Royal that he had said “she would have done better to stay at home instead of reading from her recipe-cards”.

Royal, a mother of four, has come from nowhere to redraw the French political landscape in the last year.

In the male-dominated world of French politics her sex and her family – her partner is the Socialist party leader Francois Hollande – has become as big a talking point as her policies.
Elise Karlin, a political journalist with L’Express says Royal has been able to portray herself as different from other politicians but also use the fact she is a woman to her advantage.

“She used her image as a woman a lot at the beginning of her campaign,” Karlin says “when she wanted the candidacy to be credible. Her main answer was ‘you wouldn’t ask me this question if I was a man’.”

Policy drive
Royal held her own in recent televised debates but critics accuse her of not having substantial policy ideas and of being relatively inexperienced.

She has been the leader of the western region of Poitou-Charentes but is largely untested at the national political level.

Royal has established a think-tank Desirs d’Avenir (Desires of the Future) to provide a framework to the policies that she hopes will fulfill her election pledge to change France.

Some of the policy suggestions she has mooted have shown that she may well be prepared to take on her likely presidential rival, the interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, on his own turf next year.

Her suggestion that unruly teenagers be forced to spend time at boot camps caused concern among traditional members of the Socialist party as did her plans to reform the 35 hour week, a flagship Socialist policy.

But they may well forgive her, if, as recent polls suggest, she’ll break the male, centre-right stranglehold on the the Elysee Palace and become France’s first Madame la Presidente.

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