Tomorrow night 218,771 Socialist party members will choose their candidate for the 2007 French presidential election. Ségolène Royal has captured the international spotlight with her strong leads in the polls and campaigning as an outsider fighting a male-dominated system. Her early lead has diminished somewhat after six debates against her two opponents, who have attempted to paint her as inexperienced and light on ideas. Yet polls show her still well ahead of her nearest rival, former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn. If she does not capture at least 50% of the votes tomorrow there will be a runoff, which could be difficult if her opponent is endorsed by the loser of the first round.
Throughout the campaign Royal has not always toed the party line, though she has certainly not called for the liberal reforms that Interior Minister and presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has endorsed. She has questioned the sometimes sacred 35-hour work week, and recently enraged some of the many Socialist teachers by calling on them to work full days instead of private tutoring. Royal has also said that she believes Iran should not develop a civilian nuclear program, a stance stronger even than that of US President George Bush, and a comment which many seized on as symbolizing her lack of international experience. When asked whether Turkey should be allowed to join the EU, Royal has consistently avoided answering directly, saying the French people should decide. One of her most controversial ideas has been the notion of creating "citizen juries", which would regularly assess the work of politicians. Described by some as holding the elite accountable, the idea has also been mentioned in the same line as the Soviet Union. In spite of the bad press, a majority of French voters have expressed support of the idea.
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