Sarkozy steps in to stabilise dispute between French centre-right rivals

 

Paris

After two weeks of fraternal menaces, insults and accusations, peace appears to be breaking out on the French centre-right.

The rivals in a viciously disputed election for the leadership of France’s largest political party were discussing ways of organising a new vote early next year.

The possibility of a permanent schism in the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) – and the threat of a public disavowal by former President Nicolas Sarkozy – forced the warring, would-be party chieftains to meet twice on Monday.

The UMP secretary general, Jean-François Copé, the official winner of a chaotic internal election last month, was under pressure to climb down and agree that the 300,000 party members should vote again.

His rival, the former Prime Minister, François Fillon, defeated by a handful of votes, has alleged “fraud on an industrial scale”. After accusing Mr Copé of turning the UMP into a “mafia”, he created a breakaway group in the national assembly last week – the Rassemblement-UMP  or RUMP.

Mr Fillon has promised to dissolve this rebel group as soon as Mr Cope agrees to a new election under independent supervision. Mr Copé has so far offered only a party referendum on whether or not to vote again - in 2014.

Mr Copé is under pressure to give more ground. Following a first failed attempt at mediation, ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened at the weekend to declare both men unfit to succeed him as the leader of the French Centre-Right unless they kissed and made up by Tuesday. 

Whether a new election could unite a deeply divided party remains open to question. The battle has exposed personal hatreds which go far beyond normal political rivalries.

Although Mr Copé campaigned on hard-right, populist themes and Mr Fillon took a more traditional or moderate approach, many of their leading supporters find themselves trapped on the “wrong” side of the ideological fault-line. 

Some moderate party leaders joined the Copé camp because they detest Mr Fillon. Some hard-right chieftains backed Mr Fillon because they expected the former Prime Minister to win.

Both men have been damaged by the dispute, according to opinion polls, but Mr Copé’s poll ratings have plunged more than those of  Mr Fillon. Although both sides cheated in the election on 21 November, one UMP insider told The Independent that the Copé camp had used its control of the party machine to “cheat massively and professionally”.

Some political commentators have suggested that the battle has played into the hand of Mr Sarkozy.  Whoever wins a new UMP leadership election, the former President could now emerge as the only credible centre-right challenger to President François Hollande in 2017.

Although Mr Sarkozy never commented on the dispute in public, his intervention has, in effect, ended his retirement from politics. Two Socialist politicians lodged a formal complaint on Monday alleging that the ex-President had infringed the neutrality demanded of him as one of the “sages” who sit on France’s constitutional watchdog, the Conseil Constitutionnel.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Recruitment Genius: Pharmacy Branch Manager

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence