Villepin challenges Sarkozy with new party
Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced the creation of a new centre-right party on Thursday to take on President Nicolas Sarkozy in elections in two years’ time. The move by one of Sarkozy’s most bitter enemies has been long anticipated and comes as the president’s UMP party is trying to regain the initiative after a crushing defeat in regional elections at the weekend. Villepin, an aristocratic former diplomat, said he was uncomfortable with Sarkozy’s policies and that his movement would advocate a more social, equitable approach. “The motto of our struggle will be a republic of solidarity,” he said. Villepin was recently cleared of trying to smear Sarkozy while they were battling over who would succeed former president Jacques Chirac, but faces another court battle after the Paris state prosecutor launched an appeal against the judgment.