Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

France Astir as Ministers Propose Presidential Bid by Prime Minister

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

France Astir as Ministers Propose Presidential Bid by Prime Minister

Article excerpt

FRANCE'S political world was given a good shaking when two top ministers declared their support for a presidential bid by Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

The big question is to what extent did Mr. Balladur condone the statements made by two of his ministers on Dec. 19. In separate television interviews, Simone Veil, social affairs minister and first in the line of succession to the prime minister, and Defense Minister Francois Leotard extolled Balladur for what they called his presidential qualities.

When Balladur named his government in April - a mix of right and center-right politicians - he cautioned them against any presidential politicking until three months before the spring 1995 vote. But political observers here doubt that such contradictions of the chief's orders would have been made without at least his tacit approval.

THE declarations of support come in the aftermath of what was considered the prime minister's masterful direction of the "GATT problem." In eight months of government, Balladur turned the liability of international trade liberalization talks, which had convulsed rural France and created hysteria over French identity, into an advantage. When the National Assembly voted in favor of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade accord Dec. 15, Balladur emerged with his high public-opinion ratings intact and his presidential qualities enhanced. …

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