Chirac refuses to rule out third-term campaign

2nd November 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 1, 2006 (AFP) - Support for French President Jacques Chirac has slumped after a brief upturn, a new poll showed Wednesday, as newspapers speculated he may be considering a third bid for the Elysee.

PARIS, Nov 1, 2006 (AFP) - Support for French President Jacques Chirac has slumped after a brief upturn, a new poll showed Wednesday, as newspapers speculated he may be considering a third bid for the Elysee.

Thirty-two percent of French people say they trust the president, down eight percentage points since September. Sixty-one percent do not trust him, compared to 55 percent a month earlier, according to the La Vie monthly barometer.

The score is the 73-year-old president's worst since June, when he hit an all-time low of 29 percent after a wave of mass protests against an unpopular youth job reform — which eventually had to be withdrawn.

Chirac, who after 11 years as president has hit record low popularity levels, sparked press speculation this week that he may be planning — against all odds — to seek a third term in next year's presidential election.

In a rare full-page interview with the right-wing Le Figaro newspaper, he defended his government's record on jobs and the economy — and apparently left the door open for a possible candidacy in 2007.

"Is this, for the president of the republic, about making a successful exit, or about drawing up a new candidacy?" asked the centre-left Le Monde in an editorial Wednesday.

"The bet would have seemed absurd not so long ago. Jacques Chirac has evidently not ruled it out," it wrote.

But other observers said Chirac was merely fuelling suspense to avoid being overshadowed by his centre-right rival Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a frontrunner to succeed him next year.

Confidence in Chirac's ally Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also sank five points to 27 percent — close to the record low of 23 percent he hit after the job protests — according to the poll of 1,005 people carried out on October 25 and 26.

Both men's poll ratings had recovered over the summer, possibly because of public approval of their international role during the war in Lebanon, in which Paris helped to broker a UN ceasefire.

Stéphane Rozes, head of the CSA Opinion polling institute, said the approach of next April's presidential election was "sharpening the left-right divide and weakening the executive pair," Chirac and his prime minister.

According to Rozes, the slump is mainly caused by centre-left sympathisers who may have broadly approved the government's action but were now rallying firmly around their favoured camp ahead of the election.

Meanwhile, because neither Chirac nor Villepin has declared a firm intention to stand in next year's election, they are not benefiting from a swell of support within their own camp, he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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