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Europe

French Socialist Looks to Obama as Party Picks Leader

A senior French politician and Socialist party member said Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential election showed the "time for change" had come. He advocated greater minority representation in French politics.

Barack Obama speaks at a rally

One French politician with African heritage sees the president-elect as a beacon of hope

Malek Boutih told delegates at the French Socialist Party convention on Friday, Nov. 14, that the "time for waiting is over." The election of the first US black president is the "change we've been waiting for," he added.

Boutih was born in France to Algerian parents and, as the former head of the advocacy group SOS Racism, is known as an anti-racism campaigner.

Though France has the largest Muslim minority and one of the largest black populations in Europe, its political scene remains largely white.

There are two women of North African descent and one black human rights minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, but only one black parliamentarian from mainland France, Socialist George Pau-Langevin, who was elected last year.

Boutih ran for a parliamentary seat, but lost when a rival from within his Socialist party refused to accept his nomination and ran against him on an independent ticket.

"The experience that I have had with the party leadership has taught me that it is difficult to advance," said Boutih, as reported by AFP news agency.

Segolene Royal

Royal's 2007 presidential campaign made her unpopular with some in her own party

Boutih's comments come as France's opposition Socialists hold a party congress amid divisions over future leadership and reform plans.

Royal confirms candidacy

A year and a half after losing the presidential election to conservative Sarkozy, Segolene Royal announced Friday her official candidacy to chair the Socialist Party.

Her decision came after her manifesto for party renewal was affirmed this week with a 30 percent vote from party members. However, she faces competition from several other candidates, including Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who picked up 25 percent of the party membership vote.

Royal does not have an immigrant background, but if she is selected at the three-day convention in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region, she would be the first woman to head the party.

As Sarkozy advocated tighter financial regulation -- a stance typically represented by the Socialists -- at the emergency Group of Twenty summit in Washington, the Socialists outgoing leader Francois Hollande Friday urged party members to unity.

"There will be no victory in 2012 without a strong and united Socialist Party, so let's unite," he said.

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