While the outgoing French president has not endorsed his party’s presidential candidate on the right Nicolas Sarkozy, his prime minister has decided to do so. The news comes despite tension between the two men within Jacques Chirac’s ruling UMP government.
On Sunday, 74-year-old Chirac confirmed he would not be seeking a third term in office after 12 years as president, saying he would serve the country in a different way. What he did not say was whether he would support Sarkozy, with whom his working relations have been difficult.
In his reaction to Chirac’s farewell speech on national television, Sarkozy said: “Certainly a page in Chirac’s life is turning, but in some way it’s also our page, said Sarkozy this morning. “Maybe mine is turning as well. I’ve known him for a good 30 years. It was a moving moment, full of dignity.”
Dignified was also the world Socialist candidate Segolene Royale chose to describe Chirac’s address. “In his speech he referred to constitutional values which we all share. It’s an historic moment. We are turning a page in history. A new page is going to be written and it is the French people who will decide what it says.”
“I found his speech very good, very moving,” said the third highest rating presidential candidate, centrist Francois Bayrou. “He emphasised the values of our country which aren’t always the same as those of other countries. We have unique priorities. He has shown us the way to go.”
Just over five weeks away from the election, latest polls have put the three leading candidates on a near-equal footing.