Royal plans to 'rebuild the left' with bid for leadership of Socialist Party

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The Independent Online

The defeated French presidential candidate, Sgolne Royal, has indicated that she will probably run for the leadership of the Socialist Party later this year as a prelude to a second presidential campaign.

Mme Royal's former partner, Franois Hollande, plans to stand down as the first secretary of the main French opposition party in the autumn. In a television interview yesterday, Mme Royal, 54, said she would run for his post if she felt that she could "unite the Socialists" around a "new set of political ideas".

"This year I plan to complete what I began during the presidential campaign to rebuild the left," she said. "I am at the service of the left and also of France... I raised a lot of hopes, I received a great deal of love but I also gave a great deal to the French people."

Mme Royal has been largely eclipsed since her defeat by the activism and talent for self-publicity of the President, Nicolas Sarkozy. She has concentrated on her work as president of the Charente-Maritime region in western France and remained, to a large extent, detached from the post-defeat recriminations within the Socialist party and the wider left.

Her often disjointed campaign is still blamed by many Socialists for their defeat. Younger politicians within the party feel that it is time for a new generation to emerge. Older politicians, including her ex-partner, M. Hollande, are far from ready to give her a clear run at another presidential campaign in 2012.

Although M. Hollande plans to stand down as first secretary, he is said to still believe that he could emerge as the Socialist candidate in 2012. The former finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is also said to cherish the possibility of a triumphant return from Washington, where he is now president of the International Monetary Fund.

Other Socialist barons criticised Mme Royal. They said that they could not afford another quarrel over personalities ahead of municipal elections in March. The party must first decide how to respond to Sarkozyism and how to unite a French left still tempted towards Trotskyist extremes.

In her television interview yesterday, Mme Royal said that she "sensed that more and more people are turning towards me and asking how can we work... to rebuild the Socialist Party".