France's Royal eyes future bid for presidency

PARIS Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:21am EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - Defeated French presidential contender Segolene Royal signaled on Friday she would like to run again as the Socialist candidate for president in 2012 despite opposition within the party.

The future role of Royal, who has also indicated she wants to become party leader, is set to dominate a Saturday meeting of senior Socialists called to analyze consecutive defeats in presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Socialists have been deeply divided over whether the party should move to the left or right since Royal -- who advocates opening up more to centrists -- lost the presidential race to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy last month.

But Royal, 53, left little doubt about her ambitions when she was asked on French television whether she would seek to run for president again in 2012.

"I don't know yet but I think it's probable. There is a certain logic and coherence. And obviously, I would like to continue, but the Socialist members will decide."

Royal is controversial within the left since she led an unorthodox election campaign in which she often distanced herself from the party and openly courted centrist voters.

A Socialist source close to Royal conceded that many party officials now seemed to be following a strategy of "Anyone but Segolene". Royal aides said she might stay away from Saturday's meeting.

Royal added spice to the party leadership battle this week, when she announced she had split with her partner of some 30 years, party leader Francois Hollande.

Hollande, who has had four children with Royal, has said he wants to stay in his post until 2008, and the former couple have exchanged indirect attacks over the past few days.

Royal said she had been obliged to include some measures she had not personally supported into her election program, such as a hike in the minimum wage and an expansion of the 35-hour work week.

Hollande hit back, telling French radio: "There have always been liaison problems between the candidate and the party."

Royal wants an early decision on the party leadership and selection of its candidate for president.

But at Saturday's meeting, Hollande is set to press for a 2010 date for selection of the presidential candidate -- later than Royal would like.

Hollande is set to receive the support of Royal rivals, including former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn, who lost against Royal in a party primary for the Socialist presidential candidature last year, wants the party to become a social-democratic force.

Sixty-two percent of French think he would make a good Socialist leader, an Opinionway survey published on Friday showed. Royal only came in at 34 percent, behind Socialist Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe who scored 49 percent.

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