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Socialist presidential candidate on Caribbean campaign swing

Socialist presidential candidate on Caribbean campaign swing

France's Socialist candidate for president, Segolene Royal, arrived Thursday in Martinique for a Caribbean campaign swing that also will take her to Guadeloupe, a reservoir of more than a half-million votes.
Catching up with conservative rival Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited the former colonies turned overseas departments in March, Royal was keeping a busy schedule.
However, the visit to Forte-de-France was also a sentimental journey for the 53-year-old Royal. She spent part of her childhood here, where her military father was stationed from 1955 to 1964. At the top of her agenda Friday was a visit to her school, Saint-Joseph de Cluny.
A scheduled meeting Friday with poet and elder statesman Aime Cesaire, 93, was bound to be a special treat. Cesaire, who embodies the fight for black identity, recently decided to support Royal in the spring election via her local committee.
That gift of support may be all the sweeter given his reserved greeting for Sarkozy, France's interior minister, whose trip came amid ill feeling over a short-lived law to put a positive spin on the nation's colonial days. President Jacques Chirac withdrew the measure.
Royal, former family and environment minister, was also visiting a market Friday and holding an outdoor meeting in Trinite. She travels to Guadeloupe on Saturday.
Some challenges faced Royal during her visit here as some local Socialist figures in the Antilles cast doubt on the party's commitment to homosexual marriage _ promised by the party. On Wednesday, an association in defense of homosexuals, An Nou Alle, called on Royal to "reestablish order" within the party here.
Above all, Royal, who has not yet set out a detailed platform, will be expected to define proposals for the region.
Martinique and Guadeloupe have a potential of 550,000 voters. However, Martinique also had an abstention rate of 64.6 percent in the first round of the 2002 presidential vote _ with the six-hour time difference widely blamed because many voters here know the winner before casting their ballots.
This year, officials have advanced by a day the voting in the French Caribbean, to April 21 and May 5.


Updated : 2021-04-20 22:05 GMT+08:00