The French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has vowed to unite the right ahead of next spring’s presidential vote. Addressing party activists in Marseille, he brushed aside months of battling with his rival Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and showered him with praise.
Speaking directly to the minister, he said: “Nicolas, you are an energetic, willing, courageous ministry of state, who is committed in the fight for security and against crime. I put it on record here that you have all my respect.” Keeping the lid on whether he intends to stand, de Villepin acknowledged that party divisions had cost the right previous polls.
Elsewhere, the small centrist party the UDF led by Francois Bayrou wants a government of national unity. It invited former Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard to its summer gathering. “I am a social democrat of dialogue, I don’t like civil wars. When there are differences I prefer to build bridges. I have come because you invited me”. The French political scene is undergoing a shake-up, with all eyes on the 2007 presidential race.