Former French PM Villepin to run for President

The move is seen in France as a finger in the eye of Sarkozy since the two men though conservative, are bitter rivals.

Last Updated: Dec 12, 2011, 21:35 PM IST

Paris: Former French Prime Minister Dominique
de Villepin, who gained international renown as France`s
spokesman against the war in Iraq, has shaken up the
presidential campaign by announcing he`ll run as an
independent.

The announcement yesterday night on French television is
likely to complicate life for both the Socialist candidate,
Francois Hollande, and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who runs the
UMP party that Villepin served under.

By positioning himself as a centrist, Villepin could
siphon votes from both the other candidates. But the move was
primarily seen in France as a finger in the eye of Sarkozy
since the two men despite inhabiting the same conservative
side of the political spectrum are bitter rivals.

Villepin was acquitted in September of charges he took
part in a smear campaign against Sarkozy. Yesterday, he
criticized Sarkozy for not protecting France`s interests at a
recent EU summit and imposing several rounds of budget cuts.

With growth slowing and difficult budget cuts likely
ahead, both Hollande and Sarkozy have tried to paint
themselves as beyond partisanship possibly because they fear
both established parties will be blamed for country`s high
debt levels and poor economy.

Sarkozy has not even officially declared his candidacy
yet, saying that in this time of crisis, he needs to focus on
being a leader, not a candidate.

Villepin, too, said his candidacy will eschew party
politics and distanced himself from the UMP.

"I am not for the republic of parties. I don`t believe
that truth lies on the right, on the left or in the center,"
he hold TF1 television.

He said that France had been humiliated by "the law of
the markets that keep imposing on us more austerity."

He also dismissed a deal forged last week to bind the
countries that use the euro closer together, including giving
officials in Brussels more oversight over national budgets.

Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the primary
authors of the accord.

PTI