Opposition scathing after Chirac backs PM

27th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 27, 2006 (AFP) - France's Socialist leaders and the left-wing press on Tuesday accused President Jacques Chirac of "denying reality" after he reaffirmed his support for embattled Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

PARIS, June 27, 2006 (AFP) - France's Socialist leaders and the left-wing press on Tuesday accused President Jacques Chirac of "denying reality" after he reaffirmed his support for embattled Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

"The president is living in a world of his own. He is in a parallel dimension," wrote the left-wing Liberation newspaper in an editorial, following a televised interview by Chirac on Monday that was watched by more than 6.5 million people.

"In this universe, France can take on Brazil in the World Cup final ... and Dominique de Villepin can claim to be a prime minister backed by the French people and his party.

"But the truth is quite different," wrote the paper, condemning as "blind optimism" Chirac's upbeat assessment of the centre-right government's record.

Former Socialist prime minister and presidential hopeful Laurent Fabius attacked Chirac for playing down the divisions between Villepin and his rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and head of the ruling UMP party.

Socialist former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn also criticised Chirac's comments on the improving performance of the French economy.

"We should not lie to the French people," he said. France's national debt levels remained "catastrophic", he argued, and a recent fall in unemployment figures was little more than a statistical mirage.

Meanwhile Sarkozy — whose rivalry with Chirac and Villepin is one of the causes of the government's troubles — issued a statement warmly welcoming Chirac's comments.

The right-wing Le Figaro newspaper said Sarkozy's position suggested the UMP's rival camps may have agreed on a "non-agression pact" as the countdown begins to next year's presidential elections.

Le Figaro itself broadly backed Chirac's position, saying that to change the prime minister would have been "an admission of defeat", although it questioned whether it would succeed in restoring order on the centre-right.

"Will (Chirac's intervention) be enough to contain the cold revolt of UMP deputies, who more than anything fear being dragged down with him into a spiral of defeat?" it asked in an editorial.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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