French opposition searches right and left for partners

Former RPR minister wants 'understanding' with Le Pen. Joanna Lee reports

Shaken and demoralised by the electoral defeat of 1 June, the French Right are struggling to come up with a new strategy that will put them back in the running for government.

The debate over the merging of the two main right-wing parties has been reopened, as is often the case in moments of crisis. The Gaullist mayor and MP for Vallence, Patrick Labaune, has suggested that his town should be used for a pilot project for the amalgamation of the neo-Gaullist Rassemblement pour La Republique (RPR) and the centre-right Union pour la Democratie Francaise (UDF). His proposal has caused a flurry of debate within both parties, which has served to demonstrate more than ever the divisions within the ranks of the opposition. Five MPs, including the former Defence Minister, Charles Millon (UDF) have come out in support of the project. In an interview with Le Figaro last Saturday Mr Millon stated: "The opponents of this fusion can only find tactical or personal arguments to oppose it ... if they don't like it, well, they should change parties, go and join the Socialists."

The spokesman for the UDF, Pierre-Andre Wiltzer, believes that the possibility of closer union "merits an organised debate, open to all concerned", but that this does not necessarily mean a merger. Nicolas Sarkozy, the RPR spokesman, believes that priorities lie elsewhere: "It is not by joining two weak organisations that you create a strong one ... first we must rejuvenate the RPR and reform its political plans."

In an interview in yesterday's Le Figaro, the general secretary of the UDF, Claude Goasguen, explained: "Fusion would not solve internal problems and there are still essential differences between the parties on areas such as decentralisation and Europe."

The UDF favours decentralisation and is very pro-European, whereas the RPR is less enthusiastic about decentralisation, and although officially pro-European, does have reservations in this direction, particularly towards federalism. These are the main areas of contention between the two parties, which are otherwise essentially fairly close. There is however a difference in the nature of the two parties which is likely to render amalgamation difficult. The RPR was founded by General De Gaulle in 1958 as the main right-wing party, and modernised and renamed by Jacques Chirac in 1976. The UDF is a union rather than a party, of all non-Gaullist right-wing parties, created to support the former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1978.

A darker, more desperate proposal is also floating around the offices of the opposition at the moment: that there should be co-operation with Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front. His party won 15 per cent of the votes in the first round of the recent general election, which had a catastrophic effect for the RPR and UDF.

A former RPR minister, Alain Peyrefritte, and former UDF MP Robert Pandraud have both asked for an "understanding" with the National Front. Mr Goasguen has requested that his party stop "demonising the National Front" and indulge in "serene and constructive thought" with them.

This possibility has been rejected by the president of the RPR, Philippe Seguin, and a spokesman for the RPR said yesterday that any alliance with the National Front was "out of the question".

A spokesman for the National Front said that it seemed "unlikely for the moment because the Right prefer stupidly to lose elections rather than ally with the National Front".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media