France moves one step closer to having its first woman president, as the country's Socialist Party selects lawmaker Segolene Royal as its candidate for the April 2007 presidential election. Royal won over 60 percent of the vote, avoiding a run-off and soundly defeating her two male rivals.
Royal's likely opponent next year is Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Both politicians have cast themselves as offering a radical change from the usual candidates offered by their parties, and both have built impressive popular support among an electorate disillusioned with "politics as usual" in France.
Royal, 53, is not new to politics. She joined the Socialist Party in the 1970s; she held minor cabinet positions in the government of former President Francois Mitterand. She is currently a national parliamentarian and governor of a French region. Her partner, and the father of her children, is Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande.
It is Royal's ability to connect with voters that has made her popular. Poll after poll has shown that people think Royal understands them better than any other politician.
Many also see Royal as being strong on traditional values, such as the family and education. And she has an independent streak. She has shocked some Socialists with her tough stance on crime, and her questioning of the sacrosanct 35-hour workweek.