Nearly two weeks after unveiling a solidly left campaign platform, Ségolène Royal the Parti Socialiste (SP) candidate for the presidency of France has pulled ahead in the polls versus the right wing Nicolas Sarkozy.
Royal delivered a dazzling debate performance on national television which bolstered the gains made with her 100 point "le pacte présidential" which included raising pensions, an increase of the minimum wage to €1,500 per month, a job guarantee for every university graduate, and citizens' juries to watch over government policy.
Royal gained the nomination of the SP in 2006 as a surprise candidate beating out several party stalwarts. Since then, she has faced an uphill battle both from within her party and of course from the right.
The announcement of le pacte and other maneuvers has rallied the SP politicos as well as the party base around her bid for the presidency. She is steadily gaining the confidence of the French left and especially critically the youth.
As is to be expected, Nicolas Sarkozy is running a campaign of fear and hate coupled with extreme neo-liberal capitalist measures designed to punish the working classes. Sarkozy famously instigated the immigrant youth of the French "suburbs" instigating months of riots and chaos. After several youths were murdered by police, Sarkozy fed the flames by promising to "clean out" the "yobs" and "rabble" from the rundown suburbs "with a power hose."
Royal in a recent speech took a different approach:
Cheered by supporters and frequently interrupted by applause, she spoke with more ease than usual. When she talked about France's volatile suburbs, where riots erupted in November 2005 and high unemployment rates continue to curb the opportunities of second-generation immigrants, the emotion was evident on her face and in her voice.She followed up with:
"I want for the children in these suburbs what I want for my own children," she said, clenching a fist before her bright-red blazer and prompting the crowd to erupt into a two-minute standing ovation.
A former schools minister, she vowed that she would tackle the social exclusion in the suburbs by reducing the number of students in classes. She also promised free tutoring for students that have difficulties keeping up, and workshops for parents to teach them how to discipline their children.
"The unfettered rein of financial profit is intolerable for the general interest," she said. "You told me simple truths. You told me you wanted fewer income inequalities. You told me you wanted to tax capital more than labor. We will do that reform."Royal would certainly have my vote. It will be interesting to see how far left the Democrats go under the leadership of America's perhaps first female president Hillary Clinton. My hopes are not high.
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