French coalition row over EU poll

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The Independent Online
PARIS (Reuter) - The surprise choice of a fervently pro-European centrist to head a joint list of France's ruling centre-right parties in European Parliament elections in June sparked uproar in the coalition yesterday.

The centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF) chose the Mayor of Toulouse, Dominique Baudis, a Euro-federalist, to the dismay of its more nationalist coalition partner, the Rally for the Republic (RPR).

Le Monde reported that the Gaullists, many of whom opposed the Maastricht treaty, were considering running a list of their own. It later dropped the report without explanation. RPR officials said Jacques Chirac, the Gaullist leader had called a special meeting of the party's political bureau for today to discuss the European elections in the absence of the pro-European Gaullist Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, who is visiting China.

The two parties agreed on a joint election platform last month but the choice of such a fervent pro-European to lead the list was regarded by some Euro-sceptics as provocative.

RPR deputies questioned in the corridors could find little good to say about Ms Baudis.

President Mitterrand is more popular than Edouard Balladur, for the first time since Mr Balladur became Prime Minister in March 1993, according to poll in L'Express, AFP reports. Mr Mitterrand scored 48 per cent, up by one point from the previous month, against Mr Balladur's 42 per cent, down from 47.

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