• France's news in English
 
UMP leader election descends into farce
Marie-Lan Nguyen

UMP leader election descends into farce

Published: 19 Nov 2012 16:58 GMT+01:00

Jean-François Copé, the party's firebrand secretary-general, declared to cheering supporters after voting closed late Sunday that he was the victor, but ex-prime minister François Fillon announced just minutes later that he had won.

Copé repeated his claim on breakfast television on Monday, as Fillon supporters took to the airwaves to insist their man had triumphed in the vote that came six months after Sarkozy lost the presidential election to the Socialist François Hollande.

Both camps claimed there were irregularities – and cheating – in voting in several areas, and the party's electoral commission was Monday recounting ballots and aiming to declare the official winner later in the day.

The public slanging match, reminiscent of the bitter infighting that for years dogged the Socialist party, reached such a pitch that #UMP became the top trending hashtag on the French edition of Twitter, where the candidates were the targets of a deluge of mockery.

UMP party heavyweight Alain Juppé, who was Sarkozy's foreign minister, pleaded with the pair to put a stop to their supporters' "invectives" and warned that "the very existence of the UMP is in question".

"The movement has emerged divided and thus weakened by this excessive confrontation. Throughout the campaign, it has been less a question of the future of the UMP and more about the two candidates' obsession with 2017," he wrote on his blog.

That is the date of the next presidential election.
 

Most UMP supporters want Sarkozy to stand for presidency

But whoever emerges as the new leader is not certain to be the party's candidate then as Sarkozy – whom polls say most UMP supporters want to have another tilt at the presidency – has not ruled out a return to politics.

Both Fillon, 58, and Copé, 48, are advocates of free market policies and economic reform. But they differ on social issues, with Cope sharing Sarkozy's tough-talking approach to immigration and Islam.

Aides to Copé, who accused Fillon supporters of "ballot stuffing" and "major fraud", said he had won 1,000 more votes than his rival in a poll in which more than half of the UMP's 300,000 members had cast their ballots.

Fillon said he was 224 votes ahead.

Fillon appeared more conciliatory on Monday morning. He still insisted he was ahead but added in a statement that "only the official and definitive figures will enable us to resolve the situation".

Whoever emerges as the new UMP leader will be taking over a party well-placed to capitalise on Hollande's slump in popularity and the economic gloom engulfing France.

But he may also face a difficult task in uniting the party after a bitter battle that delighted the UMP's rivals.

"It is obvious that whoever is elected president of the UMP will have no legitimacy whatsoever given that he will be in charge of a party broken in two," said Florian Philipott, deputy leader of the far-right National Front.

Fillon, who was prime minister for five years under Sarkozy, went into the vote as the marginal favourite, hoping to sell himself as a unity candidate capable of attracting centrist voters.

He accused his rival of opportunism, while seeking to portray himself as an experienced statesman – a stance that prompted Copé to dismiss him as the "Hollande of the right," in a reference to the president's perceived lack of charisma and reputation for dithering.

Copé has taken up where Sarkozy left off, unabashed in his bid to woo voters from the far-right National Front, whose historically strong score at this year's presidential election split the right-wing vote and torpedoed Sarkozy's re-election bid.

Copé last month published "A Manifesto for an Uninhibited Right", in which he lambasted a culture of "anti-white racism" amongst immigrant communities in impoverished urban areas.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French far-right boss sues mag that outed him
Closer's alleged outing of Philippot triggered an outrage in France. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

French far-right boss sues mag that outed him

Florian Philippot, one of the top members of France’s far-right party the National Front, is suing gossip magazine Closer for outing him as gay, demanding €50,000 in damages for the front-page splash of him and his alleged partner. READ  

Russian Mistral warship sailors leave France
In November France postponed delivery of Mistral ship to Russia "until further notice". Photo: AFP

Russian Mistral warship sailors leave France

Some 400 Russian sailors training to operate the controversial Mistral-class warship built by France for Russia on Thursday left the country as Paris faces increasing international pressure to abandon the disputed sale. France has already delayed the delivery of the vessel, citing the crisis in Ukraine. READ  

Truck drivers to block Paris roads over pay
French truck drivers want their action to 'impact the economy' of Ile-de-France. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Truck drivers to block Paris roads over pay

Enraged French truck drivers were on Thursday set to start blocking some roads and warehouses near Paris as part of a two-day labour action to demand a higher minimum salary. The blockage is likely to disrupt some last-minute Christmas deliveries. READ  

Five French terror plots 'foiled since last summer'
France says it has foiled five terrorism on its territory since the summer of 2013. Photo: Screengrab I-Tele

Five French terror plots 'foiled since last summer'

In the last 18 months, French intelligence services have prevented as many as five terrorism plots from taking place on French soil, according the country’s interior minister, who warned that jihadists returning from Syria continue to pose the biggest threat. READ  

French adman accuses Koons of stealing idea
US artist Jeff Koons (R) poses with US ambassador in France Jane Hartley at the US embassy in Paris in November. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

French adman accuses Koons of stealing idea

A French adman has accused US mega-artist Jeff Koons of stealing an idea from his 1985 Naf Naf advert to make a multi-million-euro artwork, a source close to the case said on Wednesday. READ  

The Local List
The French language's fixation with 'les Anglais'
What does a French woman mean when she says "Les Anglais ont débarqué!"?

The French language's fixation with 'les Anglais'

The French are known to for their stubborn attempts to keep English out of their language, but it appears they haven't done a very good job of it. The Gallic language is full of expressions containing the word “anglais” and most aren't complimentary. READ  

France votes to redraw map of its regions
France is set to start redrawing its map in January in 2016. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

France votes to redraw map of its regions

French lawmakers on Wednesday voted to redraw the map of France, reducing the country’s regions from 22 to 13, in a move aimed at trimming costs and reduce cumbersome bureaucracy. READ  

Trove of forgotten cars to go under hammer
The collection includes one of only 37 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spiders ever made. Photo: Xavier Leoty/AFP

Trove of forgotten cars to go under hammer

Earlier this month, a treasure trove of some 60 extremely rare cars was discovered in a small village in western France after lying forgotten for almost 50 years. In February the cars will change hands at an auction - and they're expected to fetch millions. READ  

Uber fights France's January ban at EU
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said this week that the practices of companies such as Uber would be banned completely starting January 1st. Photo: AFP

Uber fights France's January ban at EU

Uber, the taxi app company under fire around the world, has filed an EU complaint against a French ban on amateur drivers doubling as chauffeurs, the European Union said on Wednesday. READ  

Do the French really not care about Christmas?
Do the French really not care about Christmas? Photo: AFP

Do the French really not care about Christmas?

An opinion poll published this week concluded the French were the least bothered about Christmas of all northern European countries. But do the French really not give a s**t about Santa? Or are these polls best ignored? READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
GALLERY: The French language's fixation with 'les Anglais'
Society
So what does the web tell us about the French in the year 2014
Society
Have the French fallen out of love with Christmas?
National
Immigration in France: Hollande hits back at the scaremongers
Culture
What's on: 10 things to do in France before Christmas
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Muslims rule France in 2022: The bad boy of French literature is back
Gallery
There are so many things that claim to be French but aren't. Here are 12.
National
Crazy cat stories: Moggie returns after 1,200km trek across France
National
Tea sets for boys? French feminists protest 'gendered' Christmas presents
National
Jacques Chirac's 'head' - The perfect place to hide 1.5 kilos of weed
Gallery
Myths debunked: 11 things you (wrongly) presumed about France
National
Prices are tumbling but the property ladder is increasingly out of reach for the French
Education
IN IMAGES: French universities 'in ruin'. The students have the evidence
National
Life's about to get a lot cheaper for Paris commuters. Or is it?
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for partying with the French this Christmas
National
Some famous French fine wines are under threat from high speed trains
National
VIDEO: Homeless bodybuilder turns the streets of Paris into his gym
Business & Money
Noble Prize for Economics: Six things to know about Jean Tirole
Culture
Nobel Literature Prize: Ten things to know about Patrick Modiano
Gallery
Looking for a good Christmas market in France? Here's our top 10
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The top 15 new inventions to come out of France
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Gallery
Miss France Farmer: The contest to find a 'real French beauty'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Lyon's spectacular festival of lights dazzles once again
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Ten French Bond girls through the ages
National
Outrage forces French city to scrap yellow triangle ID cards for homeless
Gallery
Who does Christmas better - The French or Anglos? We decide.
National
All you need to know about the new French Bond girl Léa Seydoux
International
'My iPod's broken' - French jihadists moan about lack of home comforts
National
Race you to the top of the Eiffel Tower. No seriously, I'll race you.
National
And what if Mona Lisa was really a slave from China?
Opinion
Why company bosses in France have just about had enough
National
What impact did a 'giant butt plug' in Paris have on sales of sex toys?
Travel
National Geographic's top world destination for 2015 is in France.
Society
French babies switched at birth: Families seek €12 million damages
National
Why are so many French police officers taking their own lives?
Society
Immigration in France: Ten numbers that matter
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
Sarko is back in the ring: Did he ever really leave it?
National
IN IMAGES: Yet more fatal floods hit the south of France
Gallery
Forget tourism and wine, here are 10 OTHER ways France leads the world
Education
Is Paris really the best place in the world to be a student?
Society
The things gynecologists say that drive French women mad
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
A pill to make flatulence smell like roses? A Frenchman has cracked it
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se