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EDITIONS
News Tuesday, 15 June, 1999, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
French conservatives in turmoil
A serious crisis has developed in the conservative opposition in France, following the poor showing in the European elections of President Jacques Chirac's party, the RPR.

The acting president of the RPR, Nicholas Sarkozy, announced his decision to quit within hours of the result, which showed that the pro-European RPR had won less than 13% of the vote.

In fact, the RPR was outperformed by a rival grouping on the right which campaigned on a platform hostile to European integration and was led by former Interior minister Charles Pasqua - himself once a leading figure in the RPR.

chirac
Mr Chirac is seeking re-election in three years' time
Mr Pasqua immediately took the opportunity to announced the formation of a new party - the Rally For France - thereby creating the third distinct conservative party in French politics.

The new party is likely to draw support from conservatives in the RPR who are opposed to President Chirac's line on Europe, reducing his support in parliament to a rump.

If this is the case, it could be bad news for the president, who will be seeking re-election in three years time.

In quitting the position of acting president, Mr Sarkozy said: "I have decided to abandon this function and to give back all the power that comes with it.

"So that there is no ambiguity, I will add that in no event will I be a candidate for the RPR leadership."

He had only been acting president a matter of weeks, following the resignation of the last leader, Philippe Seguin, on 16 April. Mr Seguin left his post after repeated rows with President Chirac.

Centre-right triumph

Across Europe the political domination of the social democratic centre-left suffered a serious setback as results of the European Parliament elections showed centre-right gains across much of the European Union.

sarkozy
Mr Sarkozy said he had no plans to run for the RPR leadership
The European People's Party (EPP) - the centre-right bloc in the Parliament - emerged as the largest force in the assembly.

Finals results on Monday gave the EPP, which groups Christian Democrats with Conservatives, 224 seats in the 626-member assembly, a sharp rise from the 201 it held in the last Parliament.

The EPP will replace the socialists, whose share plummeted to 180 seats from 214, as the largest bloc in the Parliament.

The Greens gained nine seats, moving to fourth place in the Parliament, while the Union for Europe, comprised mainly of French Gaullists, fell from fourth to fifth place with 34 seats, a loss of 18.

The seat division may still change depending on whether smaller groups join one of the two main factions but it is expected that the centre-right will remain the largest force.

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The BBC's Stephen Jessel: "The conservative opposition began to disintegrate"
See also:

11 Jun 99 | News
14 Jun 99 | News
14 Jun 99 | News
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