France's top presidential choice picks new adviser

PARIS: French prime minister Lionel Jospin has named Yves Colmou as

his latest communications adviser.

Colmou replaces Manuel Valls, who on March 18 was elected the mayor of

Evry, a southern suburb of Paris.

Colmou's job is to oversee all PR and communications surrounding the

prime minister on a day-to-day basis.

He will also work closely with the prime minister's communications

staff, which is headed by Bernard Candiard and Philippe Guibert.

Valls is widely credited with Jospin's election as prime minister in

1997, and for his relatively good showing in opinion polls since then.

Sources in the prime minister's office say Valls will continue to advise

Jospin, but purely on a private basis.

It is believed that Jospin will announce his candidacy for the French

presidency later this year. Elections will be held in the spring of


According to a recent BVA-Paris Match poll, Jospin would defeat

incumbent president Jacques Chirac by between 48% and 52% if elections

were held now.

There is speculation that Jospin encouraged Valls to run for mayor of

Evry so that he would be more accessible to the prime minister; it is

thought that Jospin wants to organize his presidential campaign outside

the confines of the Matignon Palace, his official residence.

Jospin has recently suffered from a series of PR disasters, including a

strike in March by train drivers. The strike forced the government to

call off a reform of SNCF, the state-run train network. Just last week,

residents in the north of France criticized Jospin when the town of

Abbeville flooded. They accused the government of diverting waters away

from Paris in order to preserve the city's bid to host the 2008 Olympic

Games. Though untrue, the rumor is an example of provincial resentment

towards the capital city.

Jospin also reportedly lost his temper in public while on a trip to

Brazil last week, during which he lambasted two journalists for not

writing about a speech he gave on globalization.

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