In France, the race to become the right’s presidential candidate has taken a new turn. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has announced he will not be voting for Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy at the ruling UMP party congress next week. Sarkozy is virtually assured of the UMP nomination but Villepin says he is unable to offer his own support as the President is yet to declare his intentions.
Jacques Chirac has remained silent about going for a third term and if he decides to do so it will have to be as an independent. If he does not, some expect he will choose instead to lend his support to Defence Minister, Michel Alliot-Marie, if she chooses to run.
The machinations on the right are likely to be music to the ears of the Socialist candidate. Segolene Royal is currently in China on the latest round of her international charm offensive as she looks to write a new page in French history by becoming its first woman president. She is in China to discuss environmental, trade and human rights issues but it is not clear whether Communist Party leaders will meet her.