The French government has survived a vote of no confidence after a heated debate in parliament.
It was called by the opposition Socialists over a dirty tricks scandal embroiling the leadership of the centre-right administration. The motion got 190 votes, well short of the 289 it needed to pass. Prime Minister Dominic de Villepin accused the opposition of stoking unfounded rumours. “One year before presidential elections, some speculate, some play games, the dice roll…. while France waits to be defended and servied. That is my one and only fight,” he said. In the so-called Clearstream scandal, Villepin has been accused of using French spies to try to smear Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. He is his rival to become the main conservative candidate in the presidential election. Villepin denies the charge. In another sign of the damage caused by the affair, the centre-right UDF party, normally a government ally, voted with the opposition.