Feature

The Socialist who dares to question dogma.

The week's news at a glance.

France

Jochen Hehn
Die Welt (Germany)

Ségolène Royal is wowing the French—except for those in her own party, said Jochen Hehn in Hamburg’s Die Welt. The rising Socialist superstar has been hailed by Greens as the only leftist who could possibly beat Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s French presidential election. Blunt yet engaging, Royal, 52, has among the highest approval ratings in the country. First Lady Bernadette Chirac, perhaps France’s keenest political analyst, calls her a “serious contender.” Yet the old stalwarts of the Socialist Party, known as the “elephants,” are less than thrilled with Royal. Even her common-law husband, François Hollande, who heads the party, has voiced doubts. The reason why this woman, once dismissed as a flash in the pan, “gets on their nerves” is simply that she won’t adhere to party dogma. Socialists in France have traditionally dealt with crime by promoting welfare for the poor. Royal, though, advocates boot camp for juvenile offenders and stern interventions by social workers. Where most Socialists champion shorter work weeks, she has declared the 35-hour week a failure. Her party colleagues accuse her of being a barely closeted right-winger. But she says she is just moving the party toward the rational center. And if the polls are accurate, voters on both left and right agree. Next year, France just might elect its “first female president.”

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