France

Sarkozy calls for referendums on workfare, number of MPs in party leadership bid

France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy attends a political rally as he campaigns for the leadership of the UMP political party. September 2014.
France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy attends a political rally as he campaigns for the leadership of the UMP political party. September 2014. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy continued his unofficial campaign to be reelected in 2017 with a proposal to organise three referendums - including one on making the unemployed work for benefits - after the next presidential election.

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Sarkozy, currently campaigning to become leader of the right-wing UMP, is widely believed to be preparing a bid to be the party's presidential candidate.

At a rally of 2,000 supporters in the Loire Valley on Wednesday he called for three referendums to be held - on the controversial merging of the French regions, on reducing the number of MPs and on requiring a "minimum activity" as a qualification for receiving social security pauments.

"It would be a good idea to organise these referendums after the 2017 presidential elections," he said on Wednesday, dropping a hint about his intention to participate in that poll.

Sarkozy also critcised former president Jacques Chirac, who has supported his rival Alain Juppé in the UMP leadership battle while his wife, Bernadette, has backed Sarkozy, for not organising a referendum before abolishing compulsory military service.

Sarkozy also called for a total makeover of the UMP and its transformation into a "new formation".

"I don't want any more divisions in our political family," he said, adding that if elected he will offer 30-40 per cent of seats to new members. 

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