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Viewing cable 06PARIS1031, SEGOLENE ROYAL DISCUSSES STRATEGY FOR 2007, TRIP

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS1031 2006-02-17 16:04 2010-12-01 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001031 

SIPDIS 

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, 
AND EB 
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA 
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: SEGOLENE ROYAL DISCUSSES STRATEGY FOR 2007, TRIP 
TO U.S. WITH AMBASSADOR 

REF: A. (A) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 17 

B. 2006 
C. (B) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 10 
D. (C) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 6 
E. (D) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR JANUARY 20 
F. (E) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR DECEMBER 19 
G. 2005 
H. (F) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY REPORT FOR SEPTEMBER 23 

Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 

1. (C) Summary: In a February 8 meeting with Ambassador, 
Socialist Party (PS) presidential hopeful, current media 
darling and president of the Poitou-Charentes region Segolene 
Royal left no doubt as to her determination to win election 
as president of France in 2007. She matter-of-factly 
assessed her high poll numbers, expressing the conviction 
that her focus on family, school, and social services issues, 
along with her popularity among ordinary people, make her a 
potent political force. (Current polls show that Royal could 
make a formidable candidate in France's presidential 
election, now 14 months away. These polls show she is one of 
only two or three contenders that over half of voters now say 
they could be willing to vote for as president.) Conceding 
that "polls are not elections (ref D)" but adding that "they 
stop being in error about six months before the elections," 
Royal expressed optimism that her popularity would hold until 
then -- and for six months thereafter, notwithstanding the 
predictions of pundits to the contrary. Royal went to 
considerable lengths to express her openness and friendliness 
towards the U.S. and mentioned the possibility of visiting 
Washington during an upcoming trip to New York to speak at 
Columbia University. End summary. 

A DISARMINGLY DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL 
----------------------------------------- 

2. (C) In her discussion with Ambassador Stapleton and 
Embassy officers on February 8, Segolene Royal lived up to 
her image as an uncommonly charismatic, subtle and determined 
politician. She very matter-of-factly reviewed her 
sustained, high poll numbers (ref C) and made no bones about 
her intention to pursue the presidency so long as "other 
people think it's possible for me." Unaffectedly applying to 
herself the term "willful" often used about her by 
detractors, Royal said she was determined to stay in the 
presidential race until eliminated or victorious. (Comment: 
According to a recent biography of Royal, she wanted to test 
the waters by running in 2002, and rues having allowed 
herself to be discouraged from doing so by fellow PS 
heavyweights. In this biographer's account, she is 
determined to stay in there to the end this time around. End 
comment.) 

"I'M THE ONE TO BEAT" FOR THE PS NOMINATION 
------------------------------------------- 

3. (C) Royal betrayed no qualms about her ability to shape 
to her benefit the process that is leading to the PS's 
selection of a candidate for 2007 by primary vote among party 
members next November. In contrast to her public remarks 
about securing the PS nomination, where she often quotes 
former president Mitterrand in saying that, in politics "you 
have to give time to time," Royal was much more direct with 
the Ambassador, shrugging off the chances of her more senior 
rivals in the PS by pointing out that, "I'm the one to beat." 
(Note: Among PS party members, who will be the only voters 
in next November's party primary, Royal's current popularity 
ratings nearly double those of her nearest rival, former 
prime minister Lionel Jospin. The popularity of Royal, as a 
potential presidential standard bearer has risen steadily 
among party members since last summer (ref F). Among the 
public at large, she also far outpaces Jospin and other PS 
heavyweights in current polls as the most preferred PS 
presidential candidate. End Note.) 

4. (C) Royal said that the attraction of winning -- with her 
as the standard-bearer most clearly able to deliver victory 
-- was a powerful galvanizer of opinion among party members. 
She judged that her relatively junior standing as a party 
leader and alleged lack of qualifications need not stand in 
the way of her garnering enough support to win from among the 
party's 130,000 card-carrying members. Briefly reviewing her 
electoral and governmental record, she believed her 
experience was more than adequate to overcome any qualms 
party members (and thereafter, voters) might have about it. 
(Note and comment: Royal has been elected to the National 
Assembly four times; has served junior minister for the 
environment, junior minister for elementary education and 
junior minister for families, children and the handicapped. 
Most recently (in 2004) she won the presidency of the 
Poitou-Charentes region, beating the hand-picked candidate of 
then Prime Minister Raffarin. Royal's is a distinguished 
record of achievement and experience. What issue there may 
be over her qualifications within the PS has to be seen in 
light of, for example, former prime minister Laurent Fabius' 
experience as prime minister, president of the National 
Assembly, head of the PS party group in the National 
Assembly, minister of economy and finance and regular 
re-election to parliament since 1978. Since the February 8 
meeting, it has become obvious that former prime minister 
Jospin, in many ways the party's most senior figure, is 
actively seeking the nomination (ref A). End Note and 
comment.) 

GOLD-PLATED IMAGE PLUS FAMILIES-SCHOOLS-NEIGHBORHOODS 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 

5. (C) Royal outlined a carefully crafted strategy designed 
to cast her as the candidate of safe change -- i.e., the 
candidate who answers best French voters' simultaneous 
eagerness for change and fear of it. Royal said that she 
believed "people want a new kind of political discourse." 
This conviction, she continued, was prompting her to skip the 
political talk shows and deliberately focus instead on the 
family, school and environmental issues that are her strength 
and "are what matter most to ordinary people." She argued 
that her focus on "soft" social services issues, coupled with 
her very positive public image, her sterling center-left 
credentials and proven effectiveness as a grass-roots 
politician, make her a potent political force. Royal said 
that the core of her candidacy is "having the courage to have 
confidence in the voters." 

NOT A LOT OF POLICY SPECIFICITY 
------------------------------- 

6. (C) Royal spoke in very general, indeed, rather vague, 
terms about what she stands for as a presidential candidate. 
(Comment: Given her popularity, it is probably not in her 
interest to furnish policy prescriptions at this time lest 
she alienate potential supporters. End comment.) She 
described a crisis of confidence among ordinary French people 
who, she said, "are prey to a feeling of decline." She 
evoked how prospects for those in the middle class are 
shrinking, for their children even more so. She pointed to 
narrowing the quality gap between France's elite schools and 
its regular schools and universities as key to 
re-invigorating upward mobility in French society. She also 
criticized the Villepin government's emphasis on employment 
as the engine of upward mobility, lamenting the 
"destabilizing effects" for family life of the increased job 
insecurity implicit in many of the government's employment 
initiatives. Royal said that she would like "to lead a 
national project" that would succeed by renewing "hope in the 
people." Implicitly addressing criticism directed against 
the absence of a program, Royal noted that the successful 
record of the Jospin government didn't prevent him from 
losing in his bid for the presidency in 2002, concluding that 
"you don't win elections on your record or your program" but 
rather on the expectations generated by a candidacy. 

OPENNESS TO THE U.S. 
-------------------- 

7. (C) Though she did not dwell on foreign policy issues, 
Royal did make an effort to convey openness towards the U.S. 
Echoing the remarks of other political interlocutors across 
the board, she duly noted her opposition to the U.S. invasion 
of Iraq but went to considerable length in assuring the 
Ambassador that a socialist government would "never have 
actively campaigned against the U.S. in Africa," for example, 
and would have handled differences in a more understanding 
and less confrontational manner than President Chirac and 
then-FM de Villepin. Royal recalled, with evident fondness, 
her work organizing the 1981 Versailles Summit between 
Presidents Reagan and Mitterrand. This was her first 
experience with presidential-level diplomacy and apparently 
involved liaising with the U.S. Secret Service; Royal 
expressed her surprise, at the time, discovering the massive 
logistical underpinnings required by such events. Royal also 
made clear, through a reference to watching "Desperate 
Housewives," that she did not reject American popular 
culture. Royal did not augment her friendly sentiments 
toward the U.S. with any vision for U.S.-France relations. 
She did suggest a need "to find France's place in the world," 
with the GoF showing less arrogance in how it speaks to the 
world. The latter factor, she suggested, had played a role 
in the defeat of France's 2012 Olympics candidacy. 

8. (U) Royal said she would be visiting the U.S. soon, 
probably in the context of accepting an invitation to speak 
at Columbia University in New York this spring. She 
mentioned the possibility of also visiting Washington at that 
time. The Ambassador said he would be pleased to work with 
her and her staff to design an appropriate program. 

COMMENT 
------- 

9. Royal clearly believes her determination, concern for 
ordinary people and uncommon mix of strengths as a candidate 
make her a real contender, notwithstanding the predictions of 
pundits and her political rivals that the "Segolene 
phenomenon" will not last. Opponents, whether from 
center-right (with the exception of Interior Minister 
Sarkozy) or her own center-left, either insist on her 
"unfitness" for the job (ref D) or suggest she is a stalking 
horse for a "draft" of former PM Jospin. Although it is not 
unfair to be skeptical about Royal's staying power or even 
her qualifications, it is also true that much of the 
disparagement of her stems from envy of the popularity of a 
female upstart, who is also challenging the unwritten rules 
of the political establishment. It is also undeniable that 
Royal has managed to tap into the feelings of an electorate 
looking for change. 

10. Royal appeared to be well disposed towards the U.S. 
That said, as is the case for many on the left of the French 
political spectrum, it would be a mistake to translate a high 
comfort level with American culture into approval for a wide 
range of U.S. polices, foreign and domestic. Royal has only 
made brief trips to the U.S. as a tourist. End comment. 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

Stapleton