President Chirac backs right-wing candidate Sarkozy

21st March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 21, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac gave his backing Wednesday to right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, announcing that the interior minister would leave the government on March 26 to focus full-time on the race.

PARIS, March 21, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac gave his backing Wednesday to right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, announcing that the interior minister would leave the government on March 26 to focus full-time on the race.  

Chirac said he would give his "vote and support" to the 52-year-old Sarkozy, the candidate of the governing right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), in a televised statement pre-recorded at the Elysee presidential palace.

Polls show Sarkozy currently leading the race to succeed Chirac in the April-May election, ahead of the Socialist Segolene Royal, 53, and the centrist Francois Bayrou, 55.

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, 78, comes fourth, well ahead of the eight remaining candidates.

Sarkozy's five years at the French interior ministry, from 2002 to 2004 and again from 2005 to 2007, did more than anything in his 30-year career to shape his image as a tough-talking man of action.

Royal's Socialist Party (PS) has accused Sarkozy of using his powers as interior minister -- the number two position in the French government -- to advance his campaign.

Sarkozy had dismissed the criticism, saying only that he would step down before the start of the official campaign on April 9. He is expected to be succeeded at the interior ministry by Overseas Minister Francois Baroin, a protege of Chirac.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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