Former French President Sarkozy gains ground at poll

(AGI) Paris, March 23 - Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right partyhas won first place in the first round of French localelections. The former president's UMP party curbed the increasein support for the right-wing Front National, and is poised towin next Sunday's run-off vote. Almost three years since hisdeparture from the Elysee, when he was forced out by FrancoisHollande, Mr Sarkozy seems headed for a new victory. His riseis despite an indictment in July for alleged corruption, undueinfluence and breach of the confidentiality of judicialinvestigations, which were suspended after two months. Therewas also

(AGI) Paris, March 23 - Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right partyhas won first place in the first round of French localelections. The former president's UMP party curbed the increasein support for the right-wing Front National, and is poised towin next Sunday's run-off vote. Almost three years since hisdeparture from the Elysee, when he was forced out by FrancoisHollande, Mr Sarkozy seems headed for a new victory. His riseis despite an indictment in July for alleged corruption, undueinfluence and breach of the confidentiality of judicialinvestigations, which were suspended after two months. Therewas also the Karachi case and the Tapie affair and theaccusation of illegal funding of his 2007 campaign with moneyfrom Libya. At the end of 2013 there were rumours about hisreturn, following a lack of popular support for the newsocialist president. He delivered speeches and released adocumentary on his private life. All these were signs andnothing more. The big change came in September. After months ofconfirmations and denials and, following "a profoundexamination", he released a message on Facebook saying he wouldrun to become leader of UMP. He was interviewed about hisfuture by the "20 Heures" programme on France 2, getting anaudience of eight million, with peaks of nine million and 31.8percent of viewers. He is a liberal economically and aconservative socially, and has called for no more opposition orrivalries, which in the past two years have hit his party. Theformer president managed to storm to victory two months laterby becoming head of the party with 64.5 percent of the votes..