Centre-right UMP wins by-election despite scandals
France’s ruling UMP party has won a by-election in one of its affluent strongholds outside Paris, in the first test of the government’s popularity after a string of gaffes and scandals.
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REUTERS - France’s ruling UMP party won a by-election in one of its affluent strongholds outside Paris on Sunday, in the first test of the government’s popularity after a string of gaffes and scandals.
Many of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s own supporters have been angered by moves that smacked of special privileges for France’s elite, the most recent being a plan to install his undergraduate son as head of a prestigious public agency.
But the constituency in the Yvelines region upheld its reputation of being solidly right-wing, handing 52 percent to the UMP’s celebrity candidate, double Olympic judo champion David Douillet.
Douillet, who is a close friend of Sarkozy, beat socialist Frederik Bernard in the run-off in a second round of voting.
Asked whether public debate over Jean Sarkozy, the president’s son, had played a role in the final result, Douillet said on French television: “The fact that I won tonight proves that it didn’t.”
Bernard won less than 50 percent.
Sarkozy faced accusations of nepotism over the expected appointment of his 23-year-old son as president of EPAD, an agency in charge of developing Paris’s main business district into a financial hub to rival the City of London.
That added to a series of government gaffes, including a controversy over Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand, one of the most popular cabinet members.
Mitterrand came under fire for using prostitutes in Thailand, in old revelations that resurfaced after he fervently defended film maker Roman Polanski in a sex crime case.
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