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Sarkozy woes push UMP party to brink of bankruptcy

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2013-07-05

France’s main opposition UMP party has edged closer to bankruptcy after France’s top court confirmed Thursday that presidential nominee Nicolas Sarkozy exceeded spending limits in 2012 and would not be receiving 11 million euros in state subsidies.

France’s 2012 presidential election has returned to haunt the main opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. Not only did the hard-fought campaign end in defeat for outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy, but spending beyond legal limits has now burned an additional 11-million-euro hole in the right-wing party’s finances.

Sarkozy angrily resigned from his lifetime post on France’s Constitutional Council on Thursday, after the body rejected his presidential campaign’s financial accounting. The decision effectively means the UMP party will be denied 11 million euros the state would have otherwise reimbursed.

UMP President Jean-François Copé reacted by saying the party would launch a fundraising appeal among party members and sympathisers to lift the party out of the economic red zone, and convene a meeting of top party officials to discuss “all the implications” of the court’s decision.

“I have started to hear people raise the possibility that, financially strangled, the UMP will not be able to express its ideas for the benefit of French people,” Copé told reporters on Thursday, “that it will not be able to denounce the politics of the left, which now holds all the power [in government].”

The Constitutional Council said Sarkozy’s campaign had spent 22,872,615 euros, or exceeded authorised limits imposed by election authorities by 2.1% (466,118 euros).

Rather than set off a budgetary headache for Sarkozy’s party, the court’s ruling has worsened an existing hardship.

After losing the 2011 presidential elections, the UMP was trounced in the 2012 parliamentary poll, ceding 125 MP seats to France’s Socialist Party and Green Party.

According to state funding rules for political parties, the UMP’s reduced representation in parliament meant it received 13 million euros less in 2012 than it did compared to the previous year.

The UMP was 44 million euros in debt in 2011 and French media have reported that the party took out a 55-million-euro loan for five years in January, putting up its party’s headquarters as collateral.

Thomas Guénolé, a professor of politics at Sciences Po university, said the UMP was bankrupt. “It’s important to realize how serious [the court’s ruling] is for the UMP… it’s going to need a second bailout plan, just like Greece.”

The fallout from the successive financial setbacks is glaring when considering the party’s annual operating budget, which was 54 million euros in 2009 and 50 million euros in 2010.

The constitutional council’s slap could hardly come at a worse time as the country gears up for municipal elections in 2014, a ballot that will be significant for UMP as it attempts to claw back political territory lost to the Socialist Party in 2008.

Date created : 2013-07-05

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