José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish president participated in a large rally in Toulouse yesterday in support of the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, Ségolène Royal. During the meeting, attended by thousands, he said that, Ségolène was the future for France. According to official sources this will be Ségolène’s last rally before the first round of voting on Sunday.
Zapatero said that Europe was waiting for an innovative, committed, brave and modern France to emerge from the elections. He also said that he was convinced that Ségolène would achieve this because she represented a real alternative and would offer another form of government. According to Zapatero Spain feels close to France. His speech, which was translated using subtitles on two giant screens either side of the stage, was greeted with applause and chants of ‘Zapatero, Zapatero’.
When asked why he had chosen to show such strong support to Ségolène he justified his presence saying that he wanted to accompany her in this decisive phase of her campaign because of the commitment to social democratic ideas which they both shared and to offer a model of success to the French.
Ségolène Royal, was given the nickname Zapatera by the press in 2004 when she became the first female president of the region Poitou-Charentes. When she was still competing to be the candidate for the French presidency, she visited Madrid to participate in PSOE’s annual political conference last September, where she had a meeing with Zapatero. The Socialist leader committed her party to following a similar programme of equality designed by Zapatero’s government.
The French opinion polls only show that three out of four voters are still undecided on who to vote for. Although the outcome is still uncertain, latest polls show Nicolas Sarkozy as the front runner and many foreign policy analysts will question Zapatero’s very public display of support for the opposition candidate, especially since Franco-Spanish relations and cooperation are vital in the on-going fight against Basque terrorism.