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France Elections 2012: Segolene Royal Backs Francois Hollande

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French candidates for the socialist nomination for next year's presidential vote, Segolene Royal and Francois Hollande wave on stage at the end of the closing ceremony of the socialist party (PS) yearly meeting in the southwestern French city of La Rochelle, on August 28, 2011. | Getty

PARIS — Segolene Royal, the French Socialists' unsuccessful 2007 presidential candidate, threw her support Wednesday behind her former romantic partner, ex-party head Francois Hollande, ahead of the party's primary runoff.

As the first-place candidate in last week's first-round race, Hollande is facing off against he current Socialist party head, Martine Aubry on Sunday. The two are holding a televised debate later Wednesday.

Royal – who came in fourth in the first round, with just 7 percent of the vote – said she was giving her "total support to Francois Hollande" in a bid to strengthen the left's chances of beating the President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing center-right UMP party.

"I decided to assume my responsibilities and to help the left to victory as effectively as possible," Royal said in a statement. "We don't have the right to miss out on our rendezvous with the French people, who are waiting for us."

Hollande and Royal had four children together, although they never married. Their high-profile relationship unraveled during her 2007 campaign for president, which she lost to the now-wildly unpopular Sarkozy.

Though Royal's support is no doubt helpful for Hollande – a bespectacled 57-year-old whose years of experience as a lawmaker and center-left views are palatable to a broad swath of French voters – it's the primary's third place finisher, Arnaud Montebourg, who is widely viewed as the possible Socialist kingmaker.

Montebourg has said he could come out in favor of Hollande or Aubry following Wednesday's 90-minute debate.

France's two-round presidential race is taking place in April and May.

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