French presidential candidate Royal replaces economic adviser

Socialist Segolene Royal's campaign team replaced its economic adviser with an old party hand on Thursday, the latest sign of trouble in her bid for the French presidency.

Former Economy Minister Michel Sapin, a personal friend of Royal, will take over after lawmaker Eric Besson resigned late Wednesday for unspecified reasons.

Besson's exit comes amid intense media scrutiny of the estimated costs of the economic proposals presented by both Royal and her main rival for the two-round presidential election in April and May, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The latest polls show Royal slightly trailing Sarkozy.

Royal, visiting France's national sports federation Thursday, declined immediate comment about the shake-up, reports AP.

One of her campaign co-directors, Jean-Louis Bianco, said Besson's departure stemmed from "personal" reasons, but acknowledged that Besson had had a "spat" with Socialist Party chief Francois Hollande Royal's partner.

Bianco insisted the departure was "not a problem of the campaign team."

Royal shot to popularity last year and won the Socialist nomination in November after rallying the fractured party behind her, but speculation has mounted in recent weeks about divisions in her campaign organization. Last month, she temporarily suspended one of her spokesmen over an ill-perceived joke about Hollande.

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