Former left-wing minister jumps ship to back Sarkozy

5th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - Right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday received the official support of a former French left-wing minister, the maverick ex-tycoon Bernard Tapie.

PARIS, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - Right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday received the official support of a former French left-wing minister, the maverick ex-tycoon Bernard Tapie.

Bernard Tapie explained his decision in an interview with the weekly Le Point, saying the Socialist Segolene Royal -- the candidate backed by his party, the small Radical Party of the Left -- "lacks experience".

Royal is narrowly trailing Sarkozy in the polls ahead of the April 22 first round.

Tapie said he chose to back Sarkozy after the centre-right Employment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo -- seen as a moderate with a strong social streak -- joined his team last week.

"Today there is no hesitation, Sarkozy and Borloo have my vote," he said.

Tapie had a flamboyant career in the 1980s and 1990s as tycoon, chairman of the Olympic Marseille football club and government minister under socialist president Francois Mitterrand before falling from grace under a succession of criminal charges for match-fixing and corruption.

He served seven months in jail in 1997, after which he returned to the media spotlight as an actor and talkshow host.

Sarkozy welcomed the left-winger's support, saying it was "better to bring people together from far beyond your camp, than to divide them". The head of Tapie's party, Jean-Michel Baylet, warned that "from this day on, Tapie is no longer one of us."

Meanwhile Royal received the high-profile backing of former tennis champion Yannick Noah, one of France's most popular personalities, who attacked Sarkozy's tough line on immigration and national identity.

"I would be deeply disappointed if Sarkozy is elected, for all immigrant workers, for all people forced to prove on a daily basis that they are French, even those born in France," the former French Open champion, who is half Cameroonian, told French radio.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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