Royal Ahead as French Left Picks Leader

Defeated presidential candidate goes into runoff with big lead
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2008 7:07 AM CST
Segolene Royal came first in a ballot to become the new leader of France's Socialist Party. She will face Lille mayor Martine Aubry in a runoff.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
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(Newser) – Ségolène Royal has emerged as the strongest candidate to take over France's Socialist Party as a bitter leadership contest goes to a runoff today, Reuters reports. Royal, defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy in last year's presidential race, will face Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille who as a minister introduced the controversial 35-hour working week. Royal polled 42% while Aubry won 35%; either will become the first woman to lead the party.

The race has turned acrimonious, and whoever wins will inherit a deeply divided party. Royal's promise to push the left-wing party into the center has worried the old guard, but the presidential candidate remains popular among the party's grass roots. Aubry, meanwhile, has gathered a motley crew of senior party figures and young leftists united primarily by their dislike of Royal—who accused her opponent of leading an "anything-but-Ségolène front."