Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has announced he is setting up a new centre-right party to challenge his bitter rival Nicolas Sarkozy.
The move comes as the President reels from his party’s crushing defeat in regional elections, and two years before the next presidential election.
But Villepin would not say whether he would stand.
“I think there is absolutely no point, two years before such an important deadline as the presidential election, to jump the gun or put myself forward,” he said. “I am not here to defend a personal ambition. I am here to defend a vision, a programme, and a conviction for France.”
Dominique de Villepin was prime minister and foreign minister under President Jacques Chirac. His relationship with Nicolas Sarkozy became increasingly tense as both sought to take over the reins at the Elysee.
Barely concealed political and personal differences spilled into open warfare over the Clearstream affair. Villepin was accused of trying to smear Sarkozy and destroy his presidential ambitions. Although he was acquitted at a recent trial, the case still hangs over him as the prosecutor has appealed.
Villepin’s new party will be officially launched on June 19. Nicolas Sarkozy has not seen the back of his enemy just yet.