Royal launches presidential campaign on the internet

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The Independent Online

Ségolène Royal, the Socialist politician who is early favourite to be the next President of France, launched the world's first internet-led electoral campaign yesterday.

Mme Royal, 52, placed on her website the first of 10 chapters of a political manifesto that will be published in instalments on the internet in the next four months.

The former education and social affairs minister is inviting supporters - and anyone else - to "complete" the book with their own comments and ideas. A final text, drawing on the suggestions of web visitors but written by Mme Royal, will be published in September - two months before the Parti Socialiste chooses its candidate for next spring's presidential election.

Although a similar approach has been used by small parties elsewhere, this is believed to be the first time that a strong candidate for a leading party in a large country has offered an "interactive", internet-led political campaign.

Officially, Mme Royal, long-time partner of the Parti Socialiste's first secretary, François Hollande, is not yet a candidate for the presidential elections. She says she wishes to be "ready", if it becomes clear that she has the best chance of leading the centre-left to a triumph in the two-round elections next April and May. In recent opinion polls, she has not only outdistanced any other likely rivals on the left but overhauled the most likely centre-right candidate, the Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The virtual campaign on her site ( is intended to position Mme Royal as a grassroots, rather than top-down candidate. In comments to French magazines she says she plans to express the hunger of ordinary people in France for a more direct role in politics and a less aloof ruling class.

As a marketing idea, Mme Royal's approach could not be bettered. The Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, has collapsed in opinion polls, precisely because he refused to consult before pushing through an easy hire-easy fire jobs contract for the young.