After a bitter Socialist primary campaign won by Francois Hollande, Martine Aubry, the party leader and primary runner-up has put all her weight behind her former rival. And If Hollande unseats Nicolas Sarkozy for the Presidency, Aubry may be headed for t
PARIS - "Rock solid." That's how Bernard Cazeneuve, a spokesman for Socialist party presidential candidate Francois Hollande describes the candidate's relationship with Martine Aubry. It is a noteworthy description indeed, since Aubry, the leader of the Socialist party, was until recently Hollande's chief rival for the primary nomination for the chance to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
During a recent joint campaign swing the pair made to the Gandrange steel factory in eastern France, Cazeneuve spoke of "a relationship that was pacified, friendly and constructive."
Three months after losing the Socialist primary to Hollande, Aubry is now on the front line of her former rival's presidential campaign. "I'm always by his side, on all issues," says Aubry before adding that between the former opponents "it's all very natural."
For the Socialist party leader, the scar of the primary has healed. "That's how it works. It's democracy," she says. "That very same night, I was 100% behind him."
Her friends confirm her commitment. "She doesn't have a choice," says Marylise Lebranchu, a Socialist member of parliament. "She has dealt with her failure. Martine knows how to move on." For Jean-Marc Germain, her chief of staff, "Martine is a woman of duty."
Aubry says that it is important, as Socialist party leader, to be Hollande's No. 1 supporter, and get the whole party machine mobilized in the campaign for the May election against Sarkozy.
"It's absolutely obvious that we're different," Aubry says of Hollande. "But I have no reason to hate him. There are people for whom I couldn't have led such a hands-on campaign."
The tandem will have specific roles, according to one Socialist official: "Francois is trying to unite, Martine is striking the blows."
Aubry may not be as blunt, but she doesn't deny that the candidate must be shielded. "Francois' role is to talk to the French people. He doesn't have to constantly react to Sarkozy. In these types of debates, others must jump in."
On the trail
Hollande, who used to be the party leader, knows what it's like to be in her shoes, having experienced the defeats of Socialist candidates in both 2002 and 2007. "Experience proves that a good relationship between the candidate and the party leader is crucial to victory," says Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, a Socialist member of parliament. "The presidency is a solitary fight that you must win as a team."
Hollande, who isn't facing internal attacks like other Socialist candidates in the past, has been taking good care of Aubry. In Gandrange, he touted Aubry's social credentials by celebrating the institution in France of the 35-hour-work-week, one of Aubry's major achievements as Labor Minister.
"I'll be out on the trail," she promises. She says she already has dozens of meetings planned and will be going on several trips abroad on Hollande's behalf. But she's adamant she's not looking past the presidential election, though there are already rumors that she could be the new prime minister if Hollande wins. "I have never positioned myself. My only wish is for us to win," she says. "The choice of a prime minister will come later, depending on what the country needs. I have never worried about it."
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