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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Jacques and Bernadette Chirac's political devide

It must in the Chirac household at the moment.

The former French president, Jacques, and his wife, Bernadette, are apparently at odds over who to support in the primary to choose the candidate for the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) in the 2017 presidential elections.

Yep. It might seem a long way off, but hey ho, that hasn't stopped the political posturing.

Mind you, it's not exactly Jacques who's saying anything.

Rather it's the former first lady, Bernadette, who's taking potshots at one of the candidates already declared, Alain Juppé.

Bernadette Chirac (screenshot Europe 1 interview, January 2014)

Bernadette is a fervent supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy - both to head the UMP when the party chooses its leader in November and in the race to be its candidate for 2017, even though he hasn't officially declared his interest in running (although only a fool would vote against him doing so).

And the 81-year-old apparently has little or no time for Juppé - widely seen as Sarkozy's main challenger should he actually decide to seek the party's nomination.

"Juppé? What has Juppé got in common with Sarkozy?" she said when interviewed at the weekend.

"Alain Juppé is a very unwelcoming person. He doesn't win over people, friends and potential voters," she continued.

"You know, when important elections are approaching, you need someone with exceptional qualities. There are very few people around like that. I know, because my husband was president twice," she added.

Surely a clear indication that, as far as she's concerned, Juppé lacks the "exceptional qualities" which presumably Sarkozy has.

That might be Bernadette's assessment of Juppé's qualities - or lack thereof. But her husband apparently doesn't share her opinions.

Chirac didn't actually say as much himself.

Instead it was Juppé who revealed that the former president, under whom he served as prime minister from 1995-1997, was as loyal to him now as he had been in the past.

"Bernadette Chirac's remarks don't concern me at all," he said.

"The image of being seen as 'cold' is something that belongs to the past and there are stereotypes that always stay with you. Do you think the people of Bordeaux (the city of which he is mayor) consider me to be 'cold'?" he continued.

"I saw Jacques Chirac recently. We spent a great together and he confirmed his feeling that I was 'probably one of the best among us' (a reference to what Chirac had said of him back in the early 1990s)

And finishing with style and flourish, Juppé added, "You know, Jacques Chirac is loyal. He doesn't change his mind. And besides, I don't really want to get involved in matrimonial differences - whatever they might be."

As a timely aside, Juppé, who received an 18-month suspended sentence and a 10-year ban from running for political office (reduced to 14 months and one year respectively on appeal) in 2004 for abuse of public funds, was awarded the Press Club of France's prize for political humour 2014 on Monday for a comment which just about sums up French politics (and certainly Juppé's political career).

"In politics, it's never over. Look at me!"

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