Report: Right-Wing Chirac to Vote for Socialist Hollandeإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
France's former right-wing president Jacques Chirac will vote for the Socialist Francois Hollande in Sunday's first-round presidential vote, a newspaper Tuesday quoted a source close to him as saying.
French historian Jean-Luc Barre, who helped Chirac write his memoirs, told Le Parisien newspaper the former president had not been joking when he said he would back Hollande, who has spent most of his political life in Chirac's hometown of Correze.
"Jacques Chirac is true to himself when he says he will vote for Francois Hollande," Barre said.
"I visit him frequently, we have lunch and dinner together. After four years of discussions I believe I'm one of those who know best how he thinks," he said.
Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007, ruffled conservative feathers last year when he said he would vote for Hollande rather than President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in Chirac's own UMP party.
Although there is no love lost between the two right-wingers, Chirac, 79, caught flak from former allies and eventually tried to pass off his purported support for the Socialist as "Correze humor".
Sarkozy said Chirac, who is suffering from health problems, was being exploited by people close to him.
"The best way to respect Jacques Chirac during his current difficulties is to not try to make him talk and for his entourage not to exploit him in one way or another," Sarkozy told France Inter radio.
"That would be the best way to show one's love and respect for the former president," he said, adding: "All this is mostly a little sad."
Christian Jacob, a lawmaker with Sarkozy's UMP party considered close to Chirac, insisted the French right was united behind the president.
"These are individual statements from people who have no political responsibility," he told journalists.
"Everyone close to Chirac who has a political mandate has a very clear line: they are beside Nicolas Sarkozy, mobilized as I and others are, at 200 or 2,000 percent," he said.
France's first Socialist president Francois Mitterrand sent Hollande to Correze, 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Paris, in 1981 to stand against Chirac in parliamentary elections.
Hollande ended up staying in the region, eventually winning a seat for the region and now heads its regional council.
Le Parisien said Chirac's family was divided over who to back in the vote, with his wife Bernadette supporting Sarkozy.
French voters head to the polls on Sunday for the first-round vote, to be followed by a run-off election on May 6. Polls indicate Hollande is the clear favorite.