Royal 'may drop' French Socialist Party leadership bid

As France's Socialist Party members wage a bitter succession game to pick a party chief, an ally of Segolene Royal said the Socialist candidate who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, might pull out of the race.


France's Segolene Royal may pull out of the race to lead the opposition Socialist Party, an ally hinted Monday, although she still hopes to mount a second bid for the French presidency in 2012.

"Segolene Royal does not want questions of leadership to hamper or delay the process of convergence" in the opposition party, Jean-Pierre Mignard, who heads Royal's support committee, told AFP.

He said Royal had "no conditions of any kind concerning the leadership of the party," which is in the grip of a bitter round of infighting over its choice of leader.

The Socialist Party, which ended its annual conference in disarray last month, convenes in November to pick a successor to the outgoing first secretary Francois Hollande, Royal's ex-partner and the father of her four children.

The 54-year-old, who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in last year's presidential race, has repeatedly said she hopes to run again in 2012, and has been vying to take over the party as a springboard.

But recent polls show Royal slipping well behind her main rival, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, and she also faces a stiff challenge from -- among others -- Martine Aubry, the architect of France's 35-hour work week.

Many in the party oppose a bid by Royal on the grounds the jobs of party secretary and presidential candidate should be kept separate.

Mignard suggested Royal would decide whether to stand for the post following a vote by party activists on November 6, when they will throw their weight behind the different leadership factions.

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