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French Right set to split as Sarkozy's arch rival Dominique de Villepin sets up rival party

Screen shot 2010-06-21 at 23.31.32Dominique de Villepin (pictured) is most famous outside of France for taking on George W Bush at the United Nations - representing France's then President, Jacques Chirac, in opposition to the Iraq war. M. de Villepin is not a big fan of America full stop. In a book of poetry entitled The Shark and the Seagull, America was, yes, the shark.

But if de Villepin doesn't like America he is said to loathe President Nicolas Sarkozy. Once the two biggest beasts in the UMP under Chirac they both fell out and de Villepin was only recently found not guilty by a French court after being accusing of running a smear campaign against Sarkozy. He may yet face a re-trial.

Screen shot 2010-06-21 at 23.36.29 On Sunday de Villepin launched a new right-wing movement - République Solidaire. République Solidaire is expected to be the fundraiser for DdV's presidential challenge to M. Sarkozy. An Ifop poll for Paris-Match found that DdV had an approval rating of 49%; significantly better than his right-wing foe, on just 37%.

At the new movement's launch - attended by three thousand and more sympathisers - the crowd repeatedly chanted 'President Villepin!' Dominique de Villepin used the launch to attack French involvement in Afghanistan, Sarkozy's decision for France to rejoin NATO and also free trade. He also accused the French President of encouraging anti-immigrant sentiment. Sarkozy's own family originated from Hungary.

DdV is as aristocratic as Sarkozy is an outsider. Although he has held posts in France's Cabinet - leading to him becoming Chirac's Prime Minister, DdV has never been elected. A graduate of the École Nationale he rose smoothly through the French polical system, always by appointment, until the recent trial produced a five year wilderness period. It is not clear if he has the popular touch to convert his approval ratings into real votes.

The Telegraph's Kim Wilsher summarises the differences between the two men:

"That the two men hail from the centre Right of French politics, confirms the French saying that your worst enemy will come from your side. Both may lay claim to be the rightful heirs of General de Gaulle, as both have done in recent days, but they are polar opposites to the point of caricature: psychologically, physically and politically. Mr de Villepin is tall, fop-haired, distinguished; Mr Sarkozy is short, sharp and twitchy. Mr de Villepin thinks, Mr Sarkozy acts. Mr de Villepin dreams and deconstructs, Mr Sarkozy builds and bulldozes. One is Rimbaud, the other Rambo. They are opposites that repel rather than attract."

The video below is République Solidaire's launch film - All Together.


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