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Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2011-04-29

François Hollande has said he will take part in October primaries to choose a Socialist Party presidential candidate for the 2012 election. Among his competitors is Ségolène Royal, his former partner and the mother of his children.

Francois Hollande, the former leader of the French Socialist Party "PS," has announced his candidature for the French 2012 presidential election on a platform of “normality”.

“The French need harmony and calm,” he told a political meeting on Wednesday, referring to the atmosphere created by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he accused of polarising the nation.

For the first time ever, the PS will use US-style primaries to choose their candidate. And running against Hollande in the race for the PS nomination is Segolene Royal, his former partner and the mother of their four children.

Royal ran – and lost - against Sarkozy in 2007. She and Hollande announced their separation - the subject of much speculation during her campaign - soon after. In Nov. 2010 she surprised everyone by announcing her intention to run for the PS nomination.

“She is a big liability,” said FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Editor Jean-Bernard Cadier. “There is a lot of bad blood between them and she seems ready to do anything to achieve her goals.”

Weight loss

But Hollande, who was first secretary of the PS for eleven years (until 2008), seems determined to win.

In preparation for the campaign, he's even tried to hone his image by shedding a lot of weight.

“Ask any French person – nine out of 10 will mention his waistline,” said Cadier. “He has been a chubby figure on our TV screens for decades, mocked for having a fat man’s ‘bonhomie’.

“Now what sticks with everyone is how much weight he has lost," said Cadier. "And for (the French), this is a sign of strong resolve. It is a big asset for him.”

Aside from Hollande, two other PS candidates are doing well in the polls – Martine Aubry, the current party leader, and Dominique Strauss Kahn "DSK," the head of the International Monetary Fund.

But neither candidate has announced an intention to run for the PS nomination and Hollande is trying to gain the advantage by entering the fray ahead of them.

Turtle and the hare

Hollande is well ahead of Royal in the opinion polls: A ViaVoice survey for Liberation gave him a 45% approval rating compared to his former partner’s rating of 31%.

The same poll has Hollande just trailing Aubry at 47%, but running far behind DSK who has 54% approval rating.

And according to an Ifop poll for Paris Match (April 21), 21% of respondents said they would vote for Hollande in the first round. The survey concluded that he would beat Sarkozy in a second-round vote, polling just ahead of Aubry but still trailing significantly behind DSK. 

In declaring himself for the 2012 presidency, Hollande has gotten out of the starting blocks early in an effort to give his candidacy a real chance against his most dangerous rivals.

“Hollande is the turtle to DSK’s hare in this race,” FRANCE 24’s Jean-Bernard Cadier explained. “He may be slower and he may have less flash, but he is determined to win.”


Date created : 2011-04-28


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