- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

PARIS — France’s Socialist Party is being torn by jibes over a woman’s offer to run for president.

Segolene Royal, who lives with but is not married to Socialist leader Francois Hollande and is the mother of his four children, says she will contest the 2007 race for the Elysee Palace if the party considers her its best hope of victory.

But Miss Royal has been stung by a series of dismissive comments since she chose the glossy magazine Paris Match to make her announcement.

Referring to the possibility that Mr. Hollande might also seek the presidency, another Socialist presidential hopeful, Laurent Fabius, a former prime minister, asked: “So who is going to mind the children?”

Miss Royal, who is president of the Poitou-Charentes region of western France, also was angered when Jean-Luc Melenchon, a Socialist senator, said the presidential poll “is not a beauty contest.”

Other French lawmakers, speaking anonymously, reacted scornfully to the Paris Match interview last week.

Even Mr. Hollande, whose frequent upstaging by his glamorous companion leads to quips about “Monsieur Royal,” said gravely that he had reminded her now was not the time to announce her intentions.

Miss Royal complained yesterday that some party colleagues’ reaction suggested that they thought only a man had the right to seek the presidency.

“These comments are very, very surprising,” she said. They did not reflect the views of the “great majority” of socialists, “nor, happily, the position of the party.”

In terms of public appeal, Miss Royal, 52, stands out among several leading party figures.

Miss Royal, who claims to champion family values despite not being married, says her views on many social issues are more conservative than those of her left-wing party.

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