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‘Sarkothon’ raises €8.3m as bank deadline looms

Ben McPartland · 30 Jul 2013, 10:20

Published: 30 Jul 2013 10:20 GMT+02:00

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The “Sarkothon”, as it has been dubbed by the media in France has so far raised €8.3 million for the UMP party, which was reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy just weeks ago.

The fundraising drive was launched earlier this month following a ruling by France’s Constitutional Council that Sarkozy had breached spending limits during his 2012 failed presidential election campaign.

The ruling meant the UMP would not be reimbursed its €11million campaign deposit leaving it with a gaping hole in its accounts and a matter of weeks to pay the money back to the banks.

After Sarkozy himself boosted the fundraising drive with a plea on his Facebook page, in which he claimed democracy in France was under threat, party sympathizers have been digging deep into their pockets.

Sarkozy, who many believe will make a comeback in time for the 2017 president election, has been keen to thank contributors.

In a letter of thanks to donors, published by Le Parisien newspaper Sarkozy wrote: “I have been greatly touched by your gesture of solidarity and I will always be grateful.

“I wanted to personally express my gratitude for the gift you have been kind enough to make. By your valuable support, you have demonstrated your commitment to your political family as well as to pluralism. This test has reinforced our convictions,” he continued.

Donations have come in from far and wide, including one from Socialist Party official Christian Bourquin, who handed over €150 to his party’s rivals. Bourquin said he wanted to help the UMP avert "financial disaster" in aid of democracy and pluralism.

Sarkozy’s close allies have also stumped up money. According to the Journal de Dimanche the “Friends of Nicolas Sarkozy”, which was set up after his election defeat, have contributed €20,000 to the save the UMP drive.

Despite having raised €8.3 million, UMP party president Jean-François Copé still needs over €2 million more and with a deadline of Wednesday July 31 to hand over the money to the banks, time is running out.

It is believed the UMP will try and extend the date set by the banks to give them more time, but there has been speculation that if permission is not granted Sarkozy himself will have to dip into his pocket.

After all he was the joint surety along with his party at the time when the money was borrowed.

“If the UMP is not able to pay the full amount by July 31, the banks are able to turn to Nicolas Sarkozy", Jean Christophe Menard, a specialist lawyer on political parties told Le Monde newspaper.

Story continues below…

However some have suggested the whole fundraising drive is simply an exercise in communications designed to drum up popular support for the party at a time when Socialist President François Hollande has fallen out of favour with the French public.

One of those who believes this theory is writer Jean-Baptiste Marteau who has co-authored two books on the party.

“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 told The Local.

“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.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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