Juppe quits as UMP chief,Sarkozy readies to pounce

16th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 16 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Alain Juppe resigned Friday from the presidency of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), opening the way for a succession battle at the head of President Jacques Chirac's party.

PARIS, July 16 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Alain Juppe resigned Friday from the presidency of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), opening the way for a succession battle at the head of President Jacques Chirac's party.  

Juppe, a close ally of Chirac, had been expected to step down after being convicted in January of illegal party funding.  

"Today I move away from political life in order to make peace with myself after the torment I have just been through," Juppe said in an open letter to party members released by the UMP.  

Widely seen as a crucial launching-pad for a presidential bid in 2007, the post is now available to France's powerful Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who has made no secret of his desire to take over from Chirac.  

However Chirac has made it clear he will sack Sarkozy from the government if he tries to combine ministerial rank with leadership of the UMP, setting the stage for a gruelling battle of wills between the two men.  

Juppe's replacement will be decided at a party congress in November. Sarkozy has not yet officially declared himself a candidate for the post, saying it would be out of order to do so as long as Juppe was still in the job.  

Juppe, who was prime minister from 1995 to 1997, was given an 18 month suspended prison term and banned from public office for ten years for conniving in a funding scam while Chirac was mayor of Paris.  

However he appealed against his conviction, which means the penalty is suspended. The appeal hearing takes place in October - raising the theoretical possibility of a return to politics if he is acquitted.

 

© AFP

Subject: French news

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