With five months to go before the French presidential race, the runners and riders are already jockeying for position. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has declared his intention to stand for nomination as the candidate for the ruling centre-right UMP. Analysts say the announcement was made sooner than anticipated, in order to prevent the socialists from stealing a march on their rivals with the well-publicised nomination of Segolene Royal.
In an interview leaked on a newspaper website, Sarkozy said he would resign his portfolio before the first round in April if nominated by his party in January. His presidential ambition has long been the worst kept secret in French politics. When asked two years ago if he ever toyed with the idea, Sarkozy replied obliquely “now and then”.
A sour relationship with Jacques Chirac could be his undoing though. Sarkozy cannot count on the outgoing president’s support. Cited as another possible candidate, Defence Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie has until the end of the year to say whether she will run.