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Sarkozy’s UMP party to face court over 'Républicains' name change

Miguel Medina, AFP

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s desire to rechristen his UMP party, 'Les Républicains', will be examined in court May 22 after members of the left contested the appropriation of a concept they say belongs to all citizens.


On May 6, UMP (Union for Popular Movement) leaders voted almost unanimously to adopt the new name, a reference to France’s Fifth Republic founded 57 years ago. However, the change proposed by the party chairman won’t be enacted until it is validated by party members, who are set to vote on the question during a party congress on May 28 and 29.

The complaint against the name change, filed by left-wing officials and organisations including the National Federation of Socialists and Republicans, will be brought before Paris’ court of first instance on May 22, according to a press release issued by lawyers for the group.

"Our clients believe that it is unthinkable to privatise the republican ideal. We are thrilled that the justice has recognised the urgent need for a summary judgement on this question of principle,” they said.

"By deciding that they will henceforth be known as ‘Les Républicains’, the UMP has deliberately stirred up major civil, social and political strife in France,” the lawyers said.

Left-wing daily La Liberation called the proposed name-change a "semantic hold-up" while finance minister and senior Socialist Michel Sapin said it was disingenuous as many French of all political persuasions could call themselves Republicans.

Sarkozy, who was ousted by Francois Hollande in 2012, came out of retirement last year and is tipped to seek the support of his party to stand as president in the 2017 elections. After being named UMP chairman last November, Sarkozy promised to help his party end years of internal disputes and combat France's resurgent far-right.

"For me the era of acronyms is over," Sarkozy told weekly Journal du Dimanche in April. "It's high time we stood up for the values of the Republic rather than destroying them."


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