France's Sarkozy removes critic from party leadership after elections
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday he will shake up the leadership of his opposition Republicans party after the weekend's regional elections, with an eye on his possible bid for the presidency in 2017.
Sarkozy is sidelining the right-wing party's outspoken number two, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who has been openly critical of his approach.
"We need a new team," Sarkozy told reporters. "We prefer that the party's leaders talk about the party's policy positions and not other things."
The shake-up comes after the centre-right grouping dominated by the Republicans won seven of the 13 regions in the second round of elections Sunday as the far-right Front National (FN) was shut out of power.
However, the Republicans only won two of those regions thanks to the Socialist Party's decision to withdraw its candidates where the FN scored strongly in the first round. The Republican candidates thus attracted the votes that would otherwise have gone to Socialists.
Kosciusko-Morizet, known as NKM and a former candidate for Paris mayor, responded angrily to Sarkozy's decision, saying: "Eliminating people just as a debate is being launched is an old Stalinist idea."
"I am not going to swap my convictions for a place (in the leadership)."
Kosciusko-Morizet had been particularly critical of Sarkozy's refusal to do any deals with the Socialists in the regional elections to prevent the FN from getting into power.
Former prime minister Alain Juppe, one of Sarkozy's rivals to secure the right's nomination for the 2017 presidential race, responded to Kosciusko-Morizet's removal by saying: "Exclusion is never a good response."
© 2015 AFP