Royal takes surprise lead in Socialist poll

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The Independent Online

Ségolène Royal, the Socialist who was defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy in last year's presidential elections, has emerged as the top contender for her party's leadership after winning a surprise victory in a policy vote.

Mme Royal has been through difficult times since she lost the French election, with rival Socialist leaders criticising her. The party was voting on six motions to reshape its future, against the background of a fierce leadership battle. Opinion polls before Thursday night's vote suggested that the Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, was a more popular Socialist leader. But Mme Royal's manifesto secured more votes than that of M. Delanoe. However, she did not win an overall majority and, over the next week, must build alliances in an effort to win enough support to officially declare herself a candidate to lead the party. Results released early yesterday showed 29 per cent of party members voted for Mme Royal's motion compared with 25 per cent for M. Delanoe's and 25 per cent for that of Martine Aubry.