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Cracks emerge in France's conservative UMP party

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-05-24

Rifts have emerged in former French president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party after ex-prime minister François Fillon took aim at UMP boss Jean-François Copé for a second time Thursday, less than a month ahead of legislative elections.

REUTERS - The shock of Nicolas Sarkozy’s failure to win re-election as French president has triggered a power struggle in his centre-right UMP party that could hurt its showing in next month’s parliamentary election.

Sarkozy’s prime minister, Francois Fillon, now replaced by an interim Socialist premier, opened hostilities on Wednesday when he said the UMP had “no natural leader”.

His target, in what could be the first shots in a battle to be the next conservative presidential candidate, was UMP boss Jean-Francois Cope.

Cope aimed for the high ground, saying: “I’m not going to get into this battle. The only battle I am willing to wage is the parliamentary election.”

But Fillon told RTL radio on Thursday: “He cannot claim to be leader of this political group without democratic debate and the blessing of party activists.”

With the post of party leader not up for grabs until late this year, UMP grandees appealed for unity for the sake of its showing in the two-round parliamentary vote on June 10 and 17.

An Ifop poll published on Wednesday suggested the UMP will find it hard to keep the majority it has held in parliament since 2002.

It found 46 percent first-round support for the left-wing parties likely to form a coalition led by new president Francois Hollande’s Socialists, against just 33 percent for the UMP, with no obvious coalition partner.

“This is a bad time for a UMP contest,” tweeted Jean-Pierre Raffarin, another former UMP prime minister. “It’s not yet the time for personal quests.”

Alain Juppe, foreign minister until a week ago, scented danger too, telling reporters in Bordeaux:

“We have a parliamentary battle on our hands and we can win it, but victory can only happen if we are united.”

The Ifop poll gave the Socialist Party 34.5 percent, with the rest of the broader left-wing tally comprising likely votes for the ecologist Greens party and the hardline Left Front.

Ifop deputy director Frederic Dabi said strong backing for the far-right National Front, on 16 percent, would set the scene for numerous three-way runoffs that were likely to be far more damaging for the UMP than the left.

 

Date created : 2012-05-24

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