Royal for president?

france.gifDefinitely a tough call but Ségolène Royal is definitely a strong candidate (Economist article only for subscribers). The only thing holding her back really are the old 'elephants' of her party.

'Over the past week, however, Ms Royal has kicked up a stink among the Socialist old guard. First, this daughter of an army colonel argued for a clamp-down on teenage criminals, calling for first-time offenders to be sent to boot camp, and for parents of delinquents to be dispatched to parenting school and have their benefits reviewed. Hardly had the outcry died away before she broke another taboo, the 35-hour week, introduced by a previous Socialist government. This time, she veered leftwards.'

So what is her strategy exactly ?

'Yet it may be that Ms Royal is on to a rather smarter approach. She is pursuing a strategy of brand differentiation: entrenching her image among the electorate, which is tired of the stale grey political class, as fresh and innovative. She even talks of “ségolisme”. Coherence matters less than distinctiveness. In this, she resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading right-wing contender, who has built his image as a straight-talking, combative risk-taker. He joked this week that she “would make an acceptable candidate for the right”.'

Those rival socialists and their issues ...

'All the same, leading Socialists expect Ms Royal to trip up. Their rancour is breathtaking. Many consider her a media creation just waiting to implode. “The media is not interested in competence,” laments one, “only in a beauty contest.” One fear is that the party might pick her as a candidate—only for her to tumble afterwards, wrecking the left's chances next spring. According to one insider, her rival candidates are working towards an informal pact to back each other in the run-off for the party's nomination, in a bid to thwart Ms Royal. Some are even muttering about bringing back Lionel Jospin, a retired former prime minister.'

Will Royal come through? Well before she can even think about taking on Sarkozy she needs to silence her internal rivals and that might be the largest challenge.