Former French PM runs for president

Former French PM runs for president

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.”

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