Chirac says he could run for third term

11th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 11, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday he was still considering running for a third term against his rival on the French right Nicolas Sarkozy, a frontrunner to succeed him as president.

PARIS, Jan 11, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday he was still considering running for a third term against his rival on the French right Nicolas Sarkozy, a frontrunner to succeed him as president.

Asked whether, after 12 years in power, he would be a candidate in April's presidential election, the 74-year-old Chirac replied: "That is something worth considering, and I will give it due thought."

"When the time comes, I will inform the French people of my decision, based on one concern alone -- our national interest," he said, during a New Year's speech to the press.

Chirac has deliberately left open the possibility of a third bid, saying he would give his answer before March, despite polls that show four-fifths of the French public want him to step aside.

Analysts believe the president, unpopular after two terms in power, is unlikely to run again -- although he has sown confusion since the start of the year with a series of combative speeches and policy pledges.

Neither he nor his ally Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin plan to endorse the interior minister, Sarkozy, who is to be nominated this weekend as the official candidate of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

While a number of Chirac allies have defected to Sarkozy's camp, he and the prime minister have been accused by UMP deputies of wrecking the chances of their champion with constant sniping over his policies.

Chirac insisted on Thursday that he was "attached" to the UMP, despite his decision not to send a message to the party's nomination congress in Paris this weekend.

Party members fear that a rival centre-right candidacy would play into the hands of the far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, increasing his chances of making it through to the second round, as in the 2002 election.

Then it was Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin who fell at the first hurdle, leaving Chirac to defeat Le Pen handily. The fear in the UMP this time is that a fragmented right would hand victory to the Socialists in the shape of the popular Segolene Royal.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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