• France's news in English

Former partner Royal backs Hollande

AFP · 12 Oct 2011, 17:51

Published: 12 Oct 2011 17:51 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The frontrunner in the race to lead France's Socialists against President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential vote won a key endorsement on Wednesday ahead of a last and crucial primary debate.

Defeated hopeful Segolene Royal backed Francois Hollande, her former partner and the father of her children, hours before he was to face rival Martine Aubry in an increasingly bitter battle for the Socialist party nomination.

"I give my support to Francois Hollande," said Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential poll and took only seven percent in Sunday's first round of the Socialist primary, forcing her out of the race.

Hollande "came in first in the first round and it is legitimate to increase this lead," Royal told AFP, adding that "my new ideas have been taken into account in the candidate's programme."

Hollande, who has had tense relations with his former partner since she lost the 2007 race and he moved in with his new girlfriend, thanked Royal for the "elegance and responsibility" of her decision.

Hollande took the lead over Aubry in the first round of the primary but, at 39 to 31 percent, their scores were close enough to give her a chance to outflank him on the left and grab the nomination in next Sunday's run-off.

The stakes are high -- opinion polls suggest either Socialist would beat centre-right incumbent Sarkozy in next April's presidential election.

The tone of the battle has hardened ahead of the debate, with Aubry hitting out at Hollande's alleged centrist tendencies.

"I have said what I want to do, and it's the opposite of the soft left," Aubry, the 61-year-old mayor of Lille, said this week, in a dig at Hollande's supposed lack of steel.

Hollande, a 57-year-old former Socialist Party leader, in turn accused his rival of "insidious" attacks and "underhanded manoeuvres".

With the war of words escalating, a spokesman for organisers of the Socialist primary, Jean-Pierre Mignard, warned the two candidates against "denigration" and "bickering".

The debate, which will air on television from 8.35pm, will see the two rivals answering questions on the economic crisis, social issues and foreign affairs from a panel of journalists.

Among those watching will be the third-placed candidate from Sunday's primary, Arnaud Montebourg, who took 17 percent with a protectionist campaign urging tougher controls on financial markets.

He has said he will choose which candidate to endorse after the debate.

Royal said she backed Hollande because he shares her goals of reforming banks, fighting lay-offs, restoring morality to public life, banning politicians from holding multiple elected offices and building a green economy.

"France will find itself in 2012 at a decisive moment in its history. We on the left have no right to miss this appointment with the French people, who expect us to be at their service, effective and united," she said.

Hollande thanked Royal, saying: "I salute the elegance and responsibility of she who was our candidate in 2007 and who knows the importance of bringing people together to give us strength in the electoral battle."

In a terse statement, Aubry's office said the candidate respected Royal's"personal choice" to back Hollande.

Hollande and Royal lived as a couple for almost three decades and raised four children but split shortly before Royal's unsuccessful 2007 election campaign -- although the break-up was kept secret until polls closed.

Royal's relations with both Hollande and Aubry have been testy and it was not initially clear whom she would back.

Story continues below…

Royal believes Aubry's supporters rigged an internal Socialist Party vote to bar her from becoming party leader and relations with Hollande soured when he moved in with a new girlfriend, who he has called: "the woman of my life."

Hollande has also won the support of the last placed candidates from Sunday's first round, lawmakers Manuel Valls and Jean-Michel Baylet, both seen as being on the right wing of the left.

A public opinion poll by firm OpinionWay-Fiducial for newspaper Le Figaro released on Tuesday showed Hollande in the lead with 54 percent support against Aubry's 46 percent.

Both Hollande and Aubry hail from the ideological centre ground within the party, but Aubry tacked to the left during the primary campaign, rallying the party's base in a time of austerity and economic crisis.

The US-style open primary, a political novelty in France, has proven popular and given a boost to Socialist electoral hopes.

More than 2.5 million voters turned out for Sunday's first-round vote and more than 4.9 million watched the first primary debate in mid-September.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available