Monday, April 30, 2007

It may be an uphill battle for weazl's French choice

TV debate last chance for desperate Royal

(But she definitely is winning the award for best use of internet technology)

SEGOLENE Royal, the left-wing finalist for the French presidency, has appeared to acknowledge that she needed a near-miracle from a debate on Wednesday to save her from defeat next Sunday by the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.

As opinion polls showed Mr Sarkozy maintaining a five-point lead over the 53-year-old Socialist, Ms Royal threw caution to the winds and said that she could appoint François Bayrou, the centrist who was eliminated on April 22, as her prime minister.

Ms Royal needs most of Mr Bayrou’s seven million voters from the first round if she is to have a chance of defeating Mr Sarkozy, leader of the governing Union for a Popular Movement, on May 6.

On Saturday she held a friendly televised debate with the defeated candidate in which she appealed across party lines. She recognised the challenge facing her yesterday as Mr Sarkozy rallied 40,000 supporters in a show of strength at a Paris stadium.

"It is difficult, because I think there have been 200 polls saying that Nicolas Sarkozy is going to win, but voters are free," she said on Canal+ television.

:He is going to have to accept debate and especially account for his past actions," she added.

The pair are to meet in their only debate of the campaign on Wednesday evening. About 20 million people are expected to watch.

French presidential debates, staged since 1974 in the days before the run-off, have a history of turning the tide.

Ms Royal’s team are hoping that as a woman she can unsettle Mr Sarkozy, 52, whose weak point is a hot temper and a tendency to bully.

Mr Sarkozy said on television that he rejected the male chauvinist idea that debating with a woman was different from a man.

"You should not reduce Mme Royal to her femininity – as great as hers is," he said. "She is a politician. The question for the French is not whether to have a man or a woman but to have someone who measures up to the job."

While Mr Sarkozy avoids personal attacks on Ms Royal, his women aides are ridiculing her.

Warming up Mr Sarkozy’s crowd in the Berçy stadium in Paris, Michèle Alliot-Marie, the Defence Minister, said: “France does not need someone who changes her ideas as often as she changes skirts," she said.

"She is someone who does not even know who is governing in Afghanistan, has no idea of defence and who sets national energy policy on the back of an envelope."

A CSA poll for Le Parisien reported that 57 per cent believed that Ms Royal was sympathique (likeable) while only 29 per cent held this opinion of Mr Sarkozy.

Meanwhile, 65 per cent found Mr Sarkozy "solid” while only 24 per cent attributed the quality to Ms Royal.

Original article posted here

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