Jospin ally resigns in dispute over Corsican autonomy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The French Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevÿnement, a key figure in Lionel Jospin's government, is to resign today in protest at the Prime Minister's plan to give Corsica limited autonomy.

The French Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevÿnement, a key figure in Lionel Jospin's government, is to resign today in protest at the Prime Minister's plan to give Corsica limited autonomy.

The men met yesterday to discuss the timing and manner of Mr Chevÿnement's going. Officials said he would announce today he could no longer serve in the Socialist-Communist-Green coalition. Mr Jospin would have preferred him to wait until October, when a reshuffle is due, but Mr Chevÿnement, who has built his career on spectacular exits over the past 17 years, decided to go quickly.

Mr Chevÿnement, a believer in a strong, centralised state, has criticised Mr Jospin's two-stage plan to give Corsica limited legislative powers. Mr Chevÿnement was also irritated that Corsican policy, part of his field of responsibility, was taken out of his hands and run by officials in Mr Jospin's office.

The resignation is the latest problem to beset Mr Jospin's autonomy plan. The offer of more direct local control - welcomed by most Corsican politicians, including nationalists - was supposed to bring law and order to the island. It has, in fact, provoked an upsurge of violence, including the murder of a nationalist chieftain, Jean-Michel Rossi.

Mr Chevÿnement leads a small socialist, patriotic, Eurosceptic and anti-American splinter group called the Citizens' Movement, which believes in firm government, national unity and state interference. He has led a charmed life in the Jospin government, escaping without censure despite overtly supporting the Serbs during the Kosovo war and, more recently, saying that Germany has yet to "recover from the derailment" of Nazism.

Although the Citizens' Movement commands no more than 5 per cent of the vote nationwide, Mr Chevÿnement's mixture of authoritarian and old-style socialist views is an important, chemical component in the Jospin coalition and appeals to French people across the political spectrum.

After the loss in the past 12 months of his finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn (facing a fraud investigation) and education minister Claude Allÿgre (forced out by teachers' unions), Mr Jospin is beginning to look rather isolated within his own government.

Comments