Ségolène Royal has moved closer to her objective – becoming the first female president of France. Listening to the public’s voice has been a key part of campaigning for a woman who advised Francois Mitterrand when he held the post. She joined the Socialist Party in 1978. It was 14 years later when a ministerial role beckoned for Royal, a graduate of the elite Paris Institute of Political Studies and the equally prestigious National Administration School.
Given the environment portfolio, she would later serve as junior minister for education and junior minister for family and childhood. Her career in government came to an abrupt end in 2002 when the Socialists lost power. As this year’s election approached, the hunt was on to find a new candidate. The party faithful made its choice – giving Royal a massive vote of confidence and rejecting senior male figures.
Public opinion, too, seemed won over by the mother-of-four. First elected a member of parliament almost two decades ago, she has been the regional prime minister of the Poitou-Charentes area since 2004. With limited international experience, Ségolène Royal headed abroad. The media followed, as did a series of what critics branded gaffes. She was wrong-footed on human rights in China said some, while others frowned at the 53-year-old’s muted reaction to allegations about Israel’s behaviour in the Palestinian territories. A less turbulent trip took her to Chile to meet Michelle Bachelet, who has become that country’s first female president.
Royal’s long time partner is none other than Francois Hollande who leads the Socialist Party. There has been much speculation over his future role should she become head of state. The top job in French politics is now just one step away for Ségolène Royal. “Maintenant” or “Now” is the title of her latest book – a sign she believes that the time has come for her country to write a landmark new chapter in its history.