Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has blasted France’s highest body the Constitutional Council for putting the France's centre-right opposition party the UMP "in peril" and on the verge of bankruptcy.
Sarkozy resigned from the council on Thursday after it had confirmed he had breached spending limits during last year's presidential election campaign, meaning the party would not be reimbursed its €10 million deposit.
Making an appeal on his Facebook page for donations to help save the party Sarkozy said: “This is an unprecedented situation in the Fifth Republic. It puts the political group, that must prepare the real and necessary alternative to socialism, in peril.
“This is not just about the UMP. This concerns anyone who is committed to pluralism."
“I must assume my responsibilities in committing myself to guaranteeing free expression of democracy in our country. I ask you to mobilize to help me to achieve this end,” Sarkozy added.
Below his statement Sarkozy put a link to a webpage on which the public can make donations.
The UMP have been at panic stations ever since the Constitutional Council said in a statement that it was confirming a decision by France's electoral finance watchdog that Sarkozy had exceeded the spending ceiling on last year's president campaign expenses by around €466,000. It was only 2.1 percent of the €23 million the party had spent on the losing campaign but it proved a costly error.
Because of this, the rules state that the UMP and Sarkozy, who lost to Socialist Francois Hollande in the vote, is not eligible for the reimbursement of 47.5 percent of total campaign spending he was due under election financing laws.
'The UMP will need a bailout like Greece'
Sarkozy will also need to return €150,000 advanced by the state for the campaign.
But it is the future of the UMP that is really at stake. According to figures quoted in the French media the party is now a whopping €46 million in debt. Europe1 claims the party was forced to borrow €55 million from banks in July 2012, on the condition it would pay it back within years.
“With the loss €11 million, that we were counting on getting back, we will have to renegotiate the repayments with the banks for after 2017,” a UMP source told Europe1 radio.
French political commentator told broadcaster BFMTV that the UMP was facing financial ruin.
“It’s important to realize how serious [the court’s ruling] is for the UMP," he said. "It’s going to need a second bailout plan, just like Greece.”
UMP leaders have already sprung into action.
'Great national contribution'
On Thursday, shortly after the Constitutional Council hit the UMP with its bombshell the current leader of the party Jean Françoise Copé launched a “great national contribution” to try to raise money from supporters and sympathizers.
The donations were needed, Copé said, to "prevent the French political arena from being monopolized by the left and radical parties."
However not everyone is predicting impending disaster for the UMP. Writer Jean-Baptiste Marteau who has co-authored two books on the party told The Local on Thursday the UMP could yet turn a defeat into a victory.
“Ten million euros is a significant amount and it will obviously be difficult for the party but they could use this to win the support of a public who believe the party has been victimized,” Marteau said.
“Copé’s national subscription has already proved successful and the public could really get behind the UMP and turn this from a negative into a positive,” he added.
Sarkozy has been implicated in a series of campaign funding scandals allegedly involving Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman, and former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The former president has denied any wrongdoing.