Anti-European in French poll

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The Independent Online
Paris - Philippe de Villiers, the anti-European right-winger, yesterday announced he will stand in the French presidential elections this spring.

Mr de Villiers, an aristocrat whose candidacy could draw support from the two main likely right-wing rivals and particularly Jacques Chirac, pledged to fight against Europe and corruption, and for jobs.

"Yes, I am a candidate," he said, speaking on the influential political interview programme Sept sur Sept, detailing three main problems facing France over the next seven-year presidential term: "Are the French people going to abdicate their sovereignty,is France going to get back to work, and is the pace of corruption and insecurity going to increase?" he asked.

He promised "to give back to French people their sovereignty, to free France to work and to conclude with the French people a pact of honesty and public safety." Mr de Villiers, aged 45, swept to an astonishing victory in European Parliament elections last summer, winning 12 per cent of votes for his Movement for Values. The success of his campaign, which played heavily on his anti-European views, surprised many in the French right, and attracted many voters away from the more mainstream groups.

Observers agree that his attempt to land the presidency could attract voters away from both the expected main candidates - Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and Jacques Chirac, the Mayor of Paris.

In particular, it is likely to affect Mr Chirac, who is already well behind Mr Balladur in opinion polls. Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front, could also be badly hit.

Despite taking votes from the mainstream French right-wing parties in last June's Euro-elections, Mr de Villiers insists that he remains part of Mr Balladur's centre-right majority.

Mr de Villiers' candidacy was not unexpected. He had said on several occasions that he would stand in the elections if his ideas were not represented by other candidates.

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