Sarkozy's super-minister fights for survival

15th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 15, 2007 (AFP) - One of the most closely-watched races in France's parliamentary elections on Sunday pits super-minister Alain Juppe against a Socialist in a fight that will decide whether he stays in office.

PARIS, June 15, 2007 (AFP) - One of the most closely-watched races in France's parliamentary elections on Sunday pits super-minister Alain Juppe against a Socialist in a fight that will decide whether he stays in office.

Juppe, a former prime minister and the government's number two, is running in the southwestern wine-growing region of Bordeaux where some 56 percent of voters backed Socialist Segolene Royal in last month's presidential election.

A defeat of the 61-year-old senior minister would be an embarrassment for President Nicolas Sarkozy who brought Juppe back from political exile after his conviction in a party finance scandal and gave him one of the most prominent portfolios of his right-wing government.

Juppe was last month appointed minister for the environment, sustainable development, transport and energy policy, a new mega-ministry that will have a say in everything from urban and rural development to renewable energy.

He has been tapped to lead France's Green Revolution, starting with a major conference in October to map out a five-year plan to combat global warming, save biodiversity and improve eco-friendly management.

Sarkozy said he wanted France to be a trailbrazer on the environment front when he chose Juppe, who had a Green epiphany while living in Canada in 2005 and 2006.

"I suppose I could put my environmental convictions into practice in gardening perhaps," Juppe answered in jest when asked about his future if defeated.

To give his government what he terms "democratic legitimacy," Prime Minister Francois Fillon has promised that any minister defeated in the elections will be stripped of his or her post.

Eleven of the 15 ministers ran for seats in parliament and seven, including Fillon, were elected in the first round on Sunday. 

Of the four ministers remaining, Juppe had the worst showing, with 43.7 percent of votes.

His Socialist rival Michele Delaunay, a member of the Bordeaux city council with strong grassroots support, won 31.3 percent and can now count on votes from leftist rivals who were knocked out in the first round.

Juppe has been sounding confident in the runup to Sunday's vote, joining Bordeaux residents for a game of "boules" and riding his bicycle to cabinet meetings.

His rival on Wednesday got a boost from Royal, who remains the Socialists' most popular politician, when she traveled to Bordeaux to urge voters to elect a "real" member of parliament.

Under French law, a minister cannot hold a seat in parliament and Juppe has been running on a ticket with a stand-in candidate who will become the deputy if he wins.

"This does not meet the expectations of citizens," Royal told supporters, arguing that Juppe's rival was a "real -- not a virtual -- MP."

Considered a highly competent and hard-working politician, Juppe returned to politics in October and was elected mayor of Bordeaux.

Born in the southwest region of Landes, he served as president Jacques Chirac's prime minister from 1995 to 1997 and as foreign minister from 1993 to 1995 when Europe was struggling to contain the Balkan wars.

A close ally of Chirac, Juppe was convicted in 2004 of using his position as finance director at Paris City Hall to raise funds for Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR) party. Chirac was mayor of Paris at the time.

On appeal Juppe's sentence was reduced to a 14-month suspended jail term and he was barred from holding public office for a year.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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