Do or die time for one-man party man

Former prime minister Dominique de Villepin may be suffering from acute loser denial.

This week he was the focus of a startling tell-all interview by one of his former Africa advisors. Robert Bourgi claims he personally handed Villepin millions in illegal cash donations from African heads-of-state in the past. “Dozens of millions” of euros piled up on Villepin’s desk throughout the 1980s and 90s, Bourgi said.

It was an unwelcome allegation for Villepin, who was already trying to avoid a suspended jail sentence of 15 months in the never-ending Clearstream trial. Prosecutors in that case say Villepin knowingly allowed false rumors to spread about rival Nicolas Sarkozy’s supposed secret bank accounts in Luxembourg.

Despite the negative attention that has trailed Villepin for months, the man seems to truly believe he will be France’s next president. “Some people fear my candidature, for a very simple reason: I have something to say to the French,” he beamed on French television on Sunday.

True, the court could rule in his favor and the French would welcome the chance to put Clearstream in the past. True, Bourgi has admitted he has no physical evidence of the massive cash handoffs. But what is also true is that Villepin, so far, is commanding a one-man party with less pull than a three-legged donkey.

Villepin created a big stir when he first launched his United Republic party back in June 2010, but more than a year on, his political tent has not attracted any significant political support, and there is less than nine months before election time.

Unlike Jean-Louis Borloo, another centrist who also quit Sarkozy’s ruling UMP camp with presidential ambitions, Villepin did not convince other party members to break ranks with him. In fact, some of his more vocal supporters in the past, like MP Hervé Mariton, have been careful to mark their distance. Other former allies, like Bruno Lemaire and Marie-Anne Montchamp, have accepted posts as junior ministers in Sarkozy’s government.

Like adding salt to an open wound, Villepin’s party spokesperson, Daniel Garrigue, stepped down from his post in April and former president Jacques Chirac -once his most ardent cheerleader- is rumored to be going senile.

According to the latest opinion polls, voters are not betting on Villepin’s future either. The former prime minister is currently struggling to earn a measly 3 to 5 percent support among the electorate. At this point, he may not have the time or following to find the 500 sponsors needed by French law to join the race.

There have been brighter days for Villepin. In 2003 he gained world recognition for staring down the USA and saying no to the Iraq War at a UN Security Council meeting. In 2012 he could be staring at his own political death.

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