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Warring French opposition party turns to Sarkozy

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-26

France’s main opposition party the UMP is in disarray following last week’s disputed election for a new leader. For many in the party, former president Nicolas Sarkozy is the only person with sufficient authority to clear up the mess.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy must intervene to settle a bitter leadership battle that is tearing the country’s main right-wing opposition party to pieces, senior party members said on Monday.

Alain Juppé, a former prime minister who was one of the founders of the centre-right UMP, said that the former head of state was the only person who could resolve a dispute that has made a laughing stock of the French mainstream right.

“I thought until now that the former head of state ought to stay out of partisan quarrels like these,” Juppé told RTL radio. “But it seems perfectly clear to me now that he is the only person who has sufficient authority to find a way out of this mess.”

Juppé was supported by former interior minister Claude Guéant, who told Europe 1 radio on Monday that Sarkozy “had not ruled out sending a communiqué calling for an end to hostilities”.


The UMP has been in disarray since a party primary handed rightist Jean-François Copé a narrow victory in a vote that was marred by allegations on both sides of ballot-stuffing and fraud.

Copé claimed victory on Monday November 19 by a margin of just 98 votes out of 175,000 cast by party members.

His opponent François Fillon, a centrist former prime minister whom polls predicted would win comfortably, has contested the result of an election that should have given a clear idea of who would become the UMP’s next presidential candidate.

The election row, which has been dominating French front pages for more than a week, has revived speculation that Sarkozy will stage a political comeback.

The former president, who failed in his bid for a second term in the May 2012 presidential election, has told his aides that he will feel obliged to run for office again if the Socialists, in power since May, fail to breathe new life into France’s stagnating economy.

A CSA poll last week showed that more than half of UMP supporters want Sarkozy to have another shot at the presidency in 2017, followed by 24% supporting Fillon and 15% behind Copé.

Bailiffs at the UMP offices

On Monday Copé told reporters that during a “long and friendly phone call” with Sarkozy, his former boss had told him he “had absolutely no intention of getting involved in this election dispute.”

Sarkozy was due to have lunch with Fillon on Monday after the former prime minister had called on bailiffs to seize ballots from the UMP’s offices in Paris and was threatening legal action against Copé, a move that Sarkozy wants to avoid.

“The ball’s in Sarkozy’s court,” Juppé said on Monday, adding that senior members of the party not involved in the leadership battle wanted to resolve the issue internally as soon as possible. “Getting the courts involved will only aggravate the split and increase the risks of the party imploding.”

Sarkozy, who has kept a low profile since his defeat at the hands of Socialist President François Hollande in May, has been buoyed by a court decision last week not to indict him over allegations he took illegal cash donations of more than four million euros from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.


Date created : 2012-11-26


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