HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Royal's gaffe upsets Canada

FRENCH Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal sparked a diplomatic row with Canada after appearing to call for Quebec's independence in the latest in a series of blunders.

Ms Royal, 53, touched a raw nerve yesterday when she backed demands for Quebec's "freedom" and was rebuked by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The controversy comes as the left-wing favourite is already fending off criticism of her campaign and amid speculation over difficulties in her relationship with her partner, Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party leader.

Ms Royal sought to backtrack yesterday, claiming her words had been misinterpreted.

After emerging from the relative obscurity of regional politics to become the darling of the French media, she now trails Nicolas Sarkozy, her centre-right rival, by four percentage points, according to the latest opinion polls.

Opponents have seized on her gaffes - praising China's judicial system, contradicting international policy on Iran and failing to condemn Hezbollah - to argue she is inexperienced and unfit for the presidency.

"She is extremely lightweight on serious and sensitive subjects," said Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who is backing Mr Sarkozy.

The latest row followed a meeting in Paris with Andre Boisclair, the head of the pro-independence Parti Quebecois, on Monday. Interviewed by Canadian journalists, Ms Royal spoke of "common values, namely the freedom and sovereignty of Quebec".

The outburst reawakened suspicions in English-speaking Canada that Paris is secretly pushing for the independence of francophone Quebec.

The response from Mr Harper was vicious. "Experience teaches that it is highly inappropriate for a foreign leader to interfere in the democratic affairs of another country," he said.

Questioned on radio, Ms Royal insisted that she had never intended to call for the break-up of Canada. "It is not up to France to dictate to either the Quebeckers or Canadians what they must do," she said.

Ms Royal also sought to counter speculation over her relationship with Mr Hollande, the father of her four children.

The couple have been in the spotlight after disagreeing publicly over tax rises. Mr Hollande, who had wanted to run for the presidency himself before being swept aside by his partner, added to the feud when he was quoted as saying: "The thing about Segolene's charisma is that she hasn't got any."

The Times
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org