Ex-French PM Villepin plans new centre-right party

Former French PM Villepin is poised to set up a new centre-right party to challenge President Sarkozy, a close parliamentary ally said.

Ex-French PM Villepin plans new centre-right party

Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is poised to set up a new centre-right party to challenge President Nicolas Sarkozy, a close parliamentary ally said on Monday.

The widely expected move by one of Sarkozy's bitterest foes added to growing signs of division in the president's political camp after Sunday's sweeping regional election loss by his UMP party.

"Dominique de Villepin ... will devote himself to presenting another project to the French, an alternative for 2012, quite simply because it is absolutely necessary," Francois Goulard, a UMP deputy and longtime Villepin ally, told France Inter radio.

"We will launch this new political party in June," he said.

Goulard said the new party would create a platform to mount a challenge in the 2012 presidential election.

Villepin never made much secret of his dislike of Sarkozy when they served in government together under former President Jacques Chirac.

But the two have been open enemies since Villepin was charged as part of the so-called Clearstream affair with trying to smear his ex-colleague as they jostled to succeed their boss in 2007. He was cleared by a French court in January.

He carefully stayed out of the regional election battle, spending part of the campaign abroad, but has criticised the "incoherence" of Sarkozy's reforms and is expected to announce his new political formation at a news conference on Thursday.

A blue-blooded former diplomat and a ringing orator, Villepin gained global fame as foreign minister in 2003 with a denunciation of the U.S. invasion of Iraq at the United Nations but he has never been elected to any political office.

A poll published in the daily Le Parisien on Monday however put him in front of any other centre-right candidate for the presidential race in 2012, ahead of both Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Discontent with Sarkozy has been rumbling for months among UMP lawmakers, many of whom have been incensed by the president's policy of drawing in high profile recruits from the left with the offer of big jobs.

Sarkozy extended the tactic to Villepin's own camp on Monday, offering a ministerial post to former supporter Georges Tron as part of a reshuffle following Sunday's defeat.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Mart 2010, 09:04
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