• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Leadership dispute tears apart UMP opposition

AFP · 26 Nov 2012, 10:10

Published: 26 Nov 2012 10:10 GMT+01:00

The contested leadership vote has thrown into turmoil ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP — still reeling from its loss of the presidency and parliament this year —  and raised the spectre of an unprecedented split on the right.

Called in to mediate the damaging dispute, party heavyweight Alain Juppé threw in the towel after only 45 minutes of talks between ex-prime minister Francois Fillon and party secretary general Jean-Francois Copé late Sunday.

Fillon quickly blamed his rival and raised the stakes by promising to turn to the courts.

"Jean-François Copé holds sole responsibility for a failure that hurts our party and, furthermore, undermines the image of political activity," Fillon said in a statement.

"Anxious to break the deadlock into which Jean-François Copé's successive power grabs have plunged our party, I will refer the matters to the courts to restore the truth of the results and give a voice back to (party) activists," he said.

Copé held his ground, saying he was awaiting the decision of a party electoral appeals commission. He did not want to "mix the judicial process with the political process", he added.

The commission suspended its ruminations overnight and was set to meet again later Monday morning.

The Fillon camp considers the committee to be largely pro-Copé.

Supporters of the former prime minister hinted at an initiative on Monday to end the issue, without giving away any details.

Fillon, 58, and Copé, 48, have traded accusations of fraud and bad faith since last Sunday's party vote ended with Copé ahead by a handful of votes.

Copé was declared the winner of the leadership battle by a margin of just 98 votes in a contest in which more than 150,000 party members voted.

The party electoral commission has since said that ballots cast in France's overseas territories that were not counted would have reversed the result.

The Copé camp, meanwhile, has claimed he would have won by a clear margin but for vote-rigging in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

The party has faced ridicule over the debacle, at a time when it should be taking advantage of Socialist President François Hollande's falling popularity over his handling of France's struggling economy.

Sarkozy himself waded into the debate Sunday. He was attending a conference in Shanghai, but a source close to the ex-president told AFP he had telephoned Juppé and was "in favour of all initiatives that could resolve the situation".

Juppé, a former prime minister, said Sunday evening after the talks broke up that he was giving up his efforts.

"Alain Juppé, noting that his proposals were not accepted, considers that the conditions for a mediation did not come together," said a statement.

"Therefore he considers that his mission is over."

Story continues below…

The party's former secretary general, ex-labour minister Xavier Bertrand, urged the UMP to clean up its act and warned that its existence was at stake.

"This spectacle, this image we have put forward this week, is shameful, not worthy of a great political party," he told France 2 television.

"We must emerge from the crisis we are sinking into, I don't think that in the last 10 years the UMP has ever been in as much danger."

One Fillon supporter, UMP deputy Lionel Tardy, raised the prospect of a "split" in the UMP's parliamentary faction.

"Fifteen parliamentarians is enough to form a group but there would be more of us than that, there would be a lot of people, probably more people than with Jean-Francois Copé," he told journalists.

However Copé, speaking on national radio, said: "It's a crisis but the UMP will survive."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'War crimes committed in Aleppo': French UN envoy
A tractor clears rubble after a government strike on rebel areas of Aleppo. Photo: Thaer Mohammed/ AFP

France's envoy to the United Nations has called for an urgent Security Council meet on the war crimes he asserts are being committed in Aleppo.

'Curse of Phantom' strikes as Paris theatre burns
Anthony Crivello and Elizabeth Loyacano in the New York production of Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Really Useful Group

The curse of Phantom of the Opera has struck with a fire at a Paris theatre threatening the musical's French debut.

Two teenage girls held in France over 'terror plot'
The girls came from the same part of Nice, near Route de Turin, as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who carried out the nice attacks. Photo: Jesmar/Wikimedia Commons

Two teenage girls from Nice are being held on suspicion of planning a jihadi attack.

Focus
French fighter jet deal: India 'a school of patience'
Rafale jets at an assembly hanger in Merignac, southwestern France. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

The less-than-supersonic sale of French Rafale fighter jets to India has highlighted the obstacles facing foreign arms firms seeking to do business with the world's biggest weapons importer.

Hollande vows to 'completely dismantle' Calais Jungle
French President Francois Hollande visiting a refugee centre in Tours. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

President Francois Hollande has bowed to right-wing pressure and stepped up pledge to combat illegal migration.

First driverless minibus goes on trial in Paris
Gilbert Gagnaire, Director General of Easy Mile, poses in front of his driverless EZ10 minibus. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

The French capital's transport authority will carry out its first test of a driverless minibus on Saturday.

Feature
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
Receptionist Ivan Lopez in his tiny "chambre de bonne". Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Thousands of Parisians round off a hard day's work with a trudge up six flights of stairs to a tiny, stuffy room they resignedly call home.

Former president Chirac still in hospital but wife home
Bernadette Chirac executes a deal at the French Stock Exchange on September 12. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Former French president Jacques Chirac remains in hospital in Paris but his wife Bernadette has now been discharged.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

Cameron school pal appointed UK ambassador to France
Ed Llewellyn has spent time in the European Commission. Photo: Gov.uk

Ed Llewellyn attended the Eton College at the same time as former PM David Cameron, and then served as his chief of staff throughout his eleven years as Conservative leader.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
Society
Bordeaux hospital ranked as best in France
National
France rolls out 'world's first' driverless buses
Society
15 things a Frenchwoman can do to feel more British
Culture
Every fact you need to know about France's 'départements'
2,727
jobs available