Chirac rival resigns as Gaullists fall out

ONLY THE French centre-right could manage to fall out savagely in the middle of a war and the quarrel have nothing to do with the war. Or nothing much to do with it.

Philippe Seguin, president of the Gaullist RPR, resigned yesterday with a bitter attack on the party's founder, his long-ime colleague, and rival, Jacques Chirac. He accused the President, in effect, of plotting with rivals behind his back and failing to support their own party's campaign for the European elections in June.

Although Mr Seguin has been notably faint in public in his support for French involvement in the Balkans war, the Gaullist leader made no reference to the conflict in his brutally worded, resignation letter. The real quarrel is personal, tactical and electoral.

The parties of the French centre-right - the Gaullists, the centrist UDF and the right-wing Democratie Liberale - have been in self-destructive disarray since President Chirac called and lost an early parliamentary election two years ago. They failed to agree a common platform for the European elections, threatening Mr Chirac's hopes of uniting the right for his own presidential re-election campaign in 2002.

The pro-European UDF, under its new leader, Francois Bayrou, refused to join a common European election platform with the Gaullists while Mr Seguin - a partially recanted Eurosceptic - was leader of the campaign. Mr Seguin, 56 next week, who still harbours presidential ambitions of his own, refused to stand aside Mr Seguin was also furious with President Chirac for taking a soft line on domestic reforms proposed by the centre- left government of Lionel Jospin.

In recent weeks, relations between Mr Seguin and President Chirac have collapsed. The head of the "Friends of Jacques Chirac" said that the President's supporters did not have to vote for the RPR in the European poll. They could also vote for Mr Bayrou's Euro-federalist UDF or a Eurosceptic right-wing list.

It made Chirac pro-European federalism and anti-federal at the same time. It stabbed Mr Seguin in the back. But it had one great virtue. It kept open President Chirac's links with the wider centre-right that he will need in his campaign in 2002.

Mr Seguin asked President Chirac to disavow this statement; instead he had a high-profile meeting with Mr Bayrou. Seguin supporters believe that this was part of a deliberate strategy to force him to resign and then create a common, centre-right list for the European election after all. If so, it worked.

Mr Seguin may now emerge as a public opponent of the Balkans war, even though opinion polls are hugely in favour and give almost 80 per cent backing to President Chirac's conduct of the campaign. He may also stand against President Chirac in 2002. But the likelihood is that his career as a serious contender in French politics is finished: something that will cause the President of the Republic to lose no sleep at all.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Implementation Engineer

£150 - £200 per day: Orgtel: Implementation Engineer Hampshire / London (Gre...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Pharmacuetical

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Real Staffing, one of the UK'...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform