Bayrou calls for 'peaceful revolution'

3rd April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 3, 2007 (AFP) - Francois Bayrou, the centrist "third man" of France's presidential campaign, on Tuesday unveiled a programme calling for a "peaceful revolution" to end the left-right divide he says has left the country in an unprecedented crisis.

PARIS, April 3, 2007 (AFP) - Francois Bayrou, the centrist "third man" of France's presidential campaign, on Tuesday unveiled a programme calling for a "peaceful revolution" to end the left-right divide he says has left the country in an unprecedented crisis.

"If one of the two candidates of the dominant parties is elected, nothing will change," said Bayrou, whose unexpected opinion poll surge has rattled his main rivals, the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist Segolene Royal.

The 55-year-old former Latin teacher has emerged from almost nowhere to take third place in a 12-horse race that includes five far-left candidates, a pair of far-right contenders, a green campaigner and a hunting and fishing candidate.

They all claim to be able to cure the ills that France is facing: unemployment among the highest in Europe, social discontent that occasionally turns violent, a lethargic economy, widespread fear of globalisation, and a bitter debate over national identity.

But Bayrou's claim to be the "healer" who will soothe these pains has struck a chord.

The former education minister and leader of the small Union for French Democracy (UDF) party has gained ground with his proposal to set up a national unity government that would bring together moderates of the left and right.

Bayrou repeated that call Tuesday as he unveiled his 20-page programme at a hotel in southern Paris, telling journalists that an "electric shock" was needed to end the left-right carve-up of power.

"What we need to bring about is a revolution. A peaceful revolution, but a revolution nevertheless," said the UDF leader, who has penned a biography of King Henri IV who succeeded in uniting France after the 16th-century wars of religion.

His programme includes measures to create jobs, "restore trust" between the state and citizens, overhaul the country's creaking education system, balance the state budget and improve conditions in the poor suburbs.

The ruling UMP party's line of attack on Bayrou is that his programme is vague and that he is really a rightwinger and has always been one, while the left say that his socialist tendencies are a fraud.

Bayrou, a father of six and a practising Catholic, was born into a farming family in the Bearn region of southwestern France and makes much of his rural roots.

His popularity has fallen back in recent weeks, and the latest IFOP poll put him down one percentage point at 20 percent of voting intentions, with Royal at 23 percent and Sarkozy still firmly in the lead at 27.5 percent.        

And Bayrou suffered another blow at the weekend, when the only member of his UDF party to serve in the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's government said he had decided to support Sarkozy for the presidency.

At Tuesday's event, Bayrou again attacked France's elite training college, the National Administration School (ENA), whose graduates have dominated France's post-war governments.

"We are the only democratic country in the world where the elite is so restricted," said Bayrou, who on Monday had called for the school to be abolished.

And he took a swipe at Sarkozy on the question of the strong euro, saying that "if we weaken the euro then immediately interest rates will explode."

Sarkozy on Monday said France was the victim of "monetary dumping" from the United States, China and Japan, whose currencies he said were undervalued.

Bayrou also sought to play down his declining electoral fortunes, saying that "in the last three weeks the candidates who are in the lead experience a drop."  

In the last presidential elections here in 2002, the opinion polls failed to predict that the far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen would make it through to the second round to square off against -- and ultimately lose to -- Jacques Chirac.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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