This article analyses Ségolène Royal's rise during 2006 to become the first ever female mainstream French presidential candidate in the context of ongoing presidentialising tendencies within the French Fifth Republic. It considers the extent to which Royal's candidacy represented a turning point for the French Left, not only because of her gender, but also because of her challenge to the Left's traditional organisational and ideological norms of presidential electoral politics. Her participatory democratic campaign organisation, Désirs d'Avenir by-passed traditional party authority structures throughout 2006. However, in the face of declining poll ratings, Royal's candidacy reverted to a more orthodox relationship to the PS as 'presidential party'. Ideologically, her novel political language and down-to-earth style combine with a complex blend of egalitarianism and authoritarianism which treads novel ground. Yet the intriguing elements of her political vision have struggled to coalesce into a coherent and credible presidential programme
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