French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party begins it annual summer meeting in the Landes region, while François Bayrou will address his MoDem centrists at their own gathering in the Grande-Motte.
France's ruling UMP party has decided to no longer call its annual summer gathering a “school”, but rather a “campus”, with the emphasis shifting to its supposedly more hip-sounding youth branch, the "Jeunes Pop". As for the traditional "round-table discussions", they give way to "chats".
With these semantic peculiarities, France’s ruling party hopes to dissociate itself from the kind of old-school political lexicon it says is intrinsic to the opposition Socialist Party, which recently wrapped up its annual summer gathering in the city of La Rochelle. At a time when President Nicolas Sarkozy seeks closer ties with nationalist and traditionalist parties, the UMP will also seek to cast itself as the party unity.
"What happened in La Rochelle is a warning for us to continue on the path of reform," said Jean-Francois Copé, who heads the UMP group in the National Assembly.
No fewer than 33 UMP ministers will travel to the Landes region in a show of force intended to contrast with the Socialist opposition's many internal divisions. A speech by Prime Minister François Fillon will cap the gathering on Sunday.
The UMP will be “chatting” about a massive public loan programme, youth employment, culture and the contentious fuel tax. The latter issue promises to give rise to the most heated debates, the parliamentary majority having already expressed its opposition to plan backed by President Sarkozy.
France's ruling party will also be keen to showcase the latest high-profile defection from the left, Frédéric Mitterrand, a nephew of former Socialist president François Mitterrand. Appointed minister for culture in Sarkozy's recent cabinet reshuffle, Mitterrand is expected to address the crowd of "Jeunes Pop".
Bayrou promises 'clarifications'
Livelier discussions are expected to take place in the south-eastern city of Grande-Motte, which is hosting the MoDem party’s summer meeting. The party leader and former presidential candidate, François Bayrou, will address supporters for the first time since the MoDem's poor showing in European elections (a mere 8.46% of the vote for what was meant to be France’s third-way party), and since the party’s vice-president Marielle de Sarnez sparked controversy by attending a meeting with senior members of the Socialist Party in August.
Bayrou has promised "clarifications" on the prickly subject of alliances. Many of his supporters would be uncomfortable with the party leaning either to the left or to the right. "When you redraw the lines, you naturally raise questions, you change the frame of reference, people no longer recognise the landscape. But after this meeting I think people will understand, at least that's my goal,” said the centrist leader.
Date created : 2009-09-04