A French appeals court has sharply reduced a ban on former Prime Minister Alain Juppe holding public office from 10 years to one.
Mr Juppe was convicted for his role in a funding scam
This opens the way for the close ally of President Jacques Chirac to return to politics before elections in 2007.
In January, Mr Juppe received an 18-month suspended jail sentence for his role in an illegal party funding scam when Mr Chirac was mayor of Paris.
The conviction brought with it a 10-year ban from holding political office.
But in a surprise move, the appeals court in Versailles cut the ban and also trimmed the suspended prison sentence from 18 to 14 months.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr Juppe was both head of the centre-right RPR party and financial director at city hall in Paris.
ALAIN JUPPE'S CAREER
1976: Hired as speech writer to Mr Chirac
1983-1995: Deputy mayor of Paris
1986-1988: Deputy finance minister
1993-1995: Foreign minister
1995-1997: Prime minister
2002-2004: Head of the governing UMP
He was convicted for paying RPR employees from municipal funds.
Mr Juppe, 59, denied knowledge of the affair, but admitted he may have been negligent.
His lawyer said he would not be taking his case to the highest appeal court in France.
Mr Juppe, whom Mr Chirac once described as the "best among us", served as prime minister from 1995 but his attempts at social reform led to strikes, and he lost office to the socialist Lionel Jospin following elections in 1997.