Will France Miss the Chance for First Female President?

Segolene Royal ran poor campaign.

ByABC News
April 9, 2007, 12:53 PM

April 9, 2007 — -- As recently as a few months ago, it appeared that France was poised to make a historic choice for its next president.

But as the French presidential campaign officially kicks off today, it seems unlikely that France will elect its first female president in the May 6 election.

Earlier in the campaign, left-wing female candidate Ségolene Royal emerged as a potential winner in he presidential election and an alternative to right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy.

But since December, Royal has steadily slid in the polls against Sarkozy.

In the latest poll published by French weekly Journal du Dimanche, Sarkozy was seen getting 29.5 percent of the likely vote. Royal had 22 percent, and center-right candidate François Bayrou was only three points behind.

When Royal, 54, became the official candidate for the left, many French seemed to be seduced by the idea of having a female president.

"She had many assets -- as a woman and as the opposition leader," said Dominique Moisi of France's International Institute.

But after a series of gaffes, Royal's support has eroded, and her historic election appears unlikely.

"She ruined her chances," Moisi said. "She did not do a good campaign."

For starters, Royal voiced support for Quebec's independence from Canada, a move that prompted Canadian officials to ask her to quit interfering.

And in December, she publicly said that she had shared "many things" with Ali Ammar, a Shiite Lebanese member of the French parliament. The comments came after a conversation in which Ammar compared Israel's intervention in Lebanon with the Nazi occupation of France.

Royal has also been criticized for her lack of experience. Unlike Sarkozy, 52, who has served as France's interior minister and minister of the economy, Royal has been relegated to less significant ministries like education, environment and family.

Royal, who was elected by her own party in December and had just a few months to craft a program, has seen her domestic program dismissed as shallow compared with Sarkozy's.

Sarkozy announced his candidacy almost two years ago, giving him more time to polish his program on France's main issues: unemployment and immigration.