Richard North, 02/09/2004  

Nicolas Sarkozy has formally declared his candidacy for the leadership of the main governing party, UMP. According to officials in President Chirac’s office, he supports the bid. The President has also announced that M Sarkozy will go on being Finance Minister till the party elections in November. Chirac has said earlier that it will not be possible for Sarkozy to be a minister and leader of the party simultaneously, despite the fact that a number of UMP politicians, including Jacques Chirac himself, managed to combine ministerial positions with leadership of the party in the past.

Sarkozy is seen widely as a potential presidential candidate and rival to Chirac. It has also been suggested that, to pre-empt Sarkozy and to rid himself of the unpopular Prime Minister, Jean Pierre Raffarin, Chirac will appoint the former Foreign Minister, present Minister of the Interior, Dominique de Villepin to that post. De Villepin has denied this. Well, we all know what a political denial means.

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