Balladur returns to haunt PM

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The Independent Online
Paris - The former French prime minister, Edouard Balladur, and seven of the ministers who served in his government marked their collective return to national politics yesterday, contesting by-elections to regain their safe seats in parliament, writes Mary Dejevsky.

They left the National Assembly on joining the government in 1993, as French law does not allow ministers to be members of parliament at the same time. For the past two weeks, there has been a distinct sense of deja vu as the familiar figure of Mr Balladur toured the markets of his Paris constituency, profiting from the discomfort of his successor as prime minister, Alain Juppe.

Among the familiar figures who regained their National Assembly seats yesterday were Francois Leotard, the former defence minister, and former Europe minister, Alain Lamassoure. Mr Balladur himself, and his former budget minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, must contest a second round next week, but they are certain of winning.

The return of the Balladurists is being greeted with trepidation by the government of Alain Juppe, which already faces fierce opposition to its policies from fellow Gaullists.