Royal backs former partner Hollande in Socialist primary
Socialist primary nominee Ségolène Royal has thrown her lot behind former partner François Hollande in Sunday's run-off with party leader Martine Aubry. Royal, the 2007 presidential runner-up, arrived a distant fourth in the first round of voting.
REUTERS - Defeated Socialist Party presidential hopeful Segolene Royal will back party favourite Francois Hollande, her former companion, in a primary runoff on Sunday, giving him a small boost against rival Martine Aubry.
Her move came as a second poll showed Hollande, a moderate left-winger, remains in the lead by several points to be picked as the Socialist candidate for the 2012 presidential election.
Royal, who wept after coming fourth in Sunday's first-round primary vote with 7 percent to Hollande's 39 percent, said in a statement she would back the man who is father of her four children because he was best placed to win.
"Today I am putting all my support behind Francois Hollande," said Royal, who was the Socialist Party's unsuccessful presidential challenger in 2007.
"We must give impetus to the candidate with a clear lead that will not leave the right any foothold."
Hollande replied by statement: "I welcome the elegance and responsibility the woman who was our (presidential) candidate in 2007 and who understands how vital unity is to the strength of an electoral campaign."
Hollande's victory over Aubry, a stauncher leftist who helped bring in France's 35-hour work week, looks less certain since hardline leftist Arnaud Montebourg landed in third place in the first round with a stronger than expected 17 percent, suggesting strong support for his more radical ideas.
In the first poll of second-round voting plans since then, an Opinionway survey of left-wing voters on Tuesday showed Hollande's predicted score slipped four points to 54 percent while Aubry's rose four points to 46 percent.
A second survey on Wednesday by Harris Interactive found 53 percent of left-wing voters would back Hollande in the second round of the Socialist primary on Sunday against 47 percent for his rival Martine Aubry, a more old-school leftist.
Hollande and Royal separated in 2007, shortly after Royal lost that year's presidential election to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, following a 29-year relationship that made them the golden couple of the French left.
Montebourg, whose support could be a deciding factor in Sunday's primary runoff, has said he is waiting until after a final TV debate between Hollande and Aubry on Wednesday evening before deciding which candidate to back.