Sarkozy steps in to stabilise dispute between French centre-right rivals
Monday 03 December 2012
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.
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should convert and not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...
£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...