Nicolas Sarkozy changes UMP party's name to The Republicans ahead of political comeback

83 per cent of party members voted to back the name change

Doug Bolton@DougieBolton
Saturday 30 May 2015 13:09
Nicolas Sarkozy speaks to the press at the UMP headquarters before the party conference where the new name was voted for.
Nicolas Sarkozy speaks to the press at the UMP headquarters before the party conference where the new name was voted for.

The party of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has voted to change its name from Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) to The Republicans, in a boost for Sarkozy, who wants to make his political comeback in the 2017 presidential election.

83 per cent of the party's more than 210,000 members backed the re-branding, which Sarkozy hopes to use as a springboard for his fresh presidential ambitions.

"We call on all Republicans to rally around us", Sarkozy said in a statement.

The strong majority makes it more likely that Sarkozy will win his party's nomination to run for president and weakens his main challenger, former prime minister Alain Juppe.

UMP party members overwhelmingly voted to change the name to The Republicans

The new name has proved to be highly controversial, with critics saying it is an attempt by the right to usurp the values of the entire nation, which was built on republican principles.

A group of opposition parties, more than 140 people with the surname 'Républicain', and 23,000 signatories of an online petition called for an emergency ban on the name - but it was rejected by a Paris judge, who said there was no justification for a ban.

National assembly member Daniel Fasquelle said on Twitter: "Victory for freedom! We can call ourselves the Republicans!" after the ban was rejected.

Nearly 46 percent of the UMP members voted in the poll, which was widely seen as a test of Sarkozy's popularity within the party.

Sarkozy, who was elected party chief with 64.5 per cent of the votes in November, was French president from 2007 to 2012.

A divisive figure, Sarkozy has gone to great lengths over the past few months to show that he is working on uniting the party behind him.

While his return at the helm of the UMP was shaky at first, the party's victory in local elections in March enhanced Sarkozy's credibility and his changes to win the party's primaries vote in 2016.

Jerome Fourquet of polling firm Ifop said: "The final word has not been spoken yet, far from it, but Sarkozy is gradually beginning to dominate his political family."

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