A Profile of Ségolène Royal

Der Spiegel profiles Ségolène Royal, quite possibly the next President of France.

220pxsegolene_royal_1Until recently, the idea of having a female president would have been inconceivable in France. But popular Royal, 52, could very well succeed in becoming the first woman to lead the country following next spring’s elections. One of the arguments in her favor is the conservative administration’s ongoing problem with its “first-time employment contract” for young people entering the work force. President Jacques Chirac’s authority is diminished, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has been publicly humiliated and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to use the situation to capitalize on his role as a mediator. The fact that the government withdrew the law last Friday and will now have to draft new legislation has hurt the entire conservative movement. This makes life easier for the opposition, and Royal is practically guaranteed an automatic boost to her popularity.

Despite her excellent prospects, Royal is an extremely unlikely contender for the country’s highest office. She is the unmarried mother of two sons and two daughters. She has been a member of the Socialist Party (PS) since 1978, and yet she has never managed to put together her own team. She has spent years gathering experience in the Ministries of the Environment, Education, Family and Childhood and the Handicapped, and yet she was considered a political lightweight until only recently.

She also happens to have a personal handicap. Her life partner and the father of her children, Socialist Party leader François Hollande, is also a potential candidate to succeed current President Jacques Chirac.