There was a show of unity at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as President Jacques Chirac laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the presence of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.
However, despite appearances, the government is in disarray. The French press reports that President Chirac has asked Sarkozy to take over from the beleaguered prime minister. Aides to the president strongly deny a cabinet shake-up is imminent. Popularity ratings for Chirac and de Villepin have plunged as Sarkozy’s has risen over the “Clearstream Affair”, which is being called the French Watergate. The scandal points to the possibility that de Villepin may have been behind an alleged plot to undermine Sarkozy, his main political rival. Speculation is intense that de Villepin’s days as prime minister are numbered.