French politics

UDI, the UDF 2.0?

Jean-Louis Borloo, former minister of Environment (2007 – 2010), in 2011, during the French Radical Party Congress

On the last Sunday, Jean-Louis Borloo, former Nicolas Sarkozy’s minister, officially introduced his new political party, the UDI (Union des démocrates indépendants, Union for Independent Democrats) with some personalities and former other ministers as Jean-Marie Bockel, Hervé Morin, Rama Yade and Chantal Jouanno, current senator of Paris.

The UDI is a new party gathering most other parties coming from the centre as Gauche moderne (founded by Bockel and supporting Nicolas Sarkozy during the previous legislature), Nouveau Centre, some Modem (the François Bayrou’s movement) activists disappointed by the attitude and the strategy of their leader and some UMP’s executives as Chantal Jouanno. The ex-minister for Sports officialised her new belonging to UDI and was strongly criticized by her ex-political friends considering she is an opportunist. The new political party wants to be ambitious and independent of the UMP and aims at becoming the first political party of France in 2014, just after the local elections.

Jean-Louis Borloo enjoys the empty political space inside the Centre, the Fillon – Copé rivalry for the UMP leadership, the “definitive” marginalization of François Bayrou to introduce a new movement made by him and for him in the perspective of the next French presidential race. The ex-minister was clear: the UDI wants to appear as the heir of the UDF, the party founded by the ex-French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and which disappeared of the French political life in 2007. To sum up, the UDI wants to revive the great hours of the centre-right in French politics, pleading an alliance with the UMP and being in high ground both to be credible and respected especially.

Jean-Louis Borloo, during the UDI constitutive assembly

Nonetheless, looking for reviving the UDF and the past glory, Jean-Louis Borloo does not make his message clear and is proving, defending an alliance with the UMP, his incapacity of the French centre-right to be really independent of the French traditional and conservative right once again. In his favour, François Bayrou, as Modem leader, tried to make his political movement, a genuine centrist party having to play an important role in French politics vis-à-vis the Socialists and the UMP. The bad choices, the strategic errors made the ex-candidate to the French presidency and the betrayals of his political supporters seriously questioned his objective. But reaffirming a natural alliance with the UMP, the UDI seems to be a party which depends on the ex-ruling party, for electoral reasons mainly (the Jean-Louis Borloo’s party having few representatives for the moment)

What is more the UDI, as heir of the UDF, shows it is wrong about the issues and the current situation. The France of 2012 does not look like the France of 1970s or even the 2000s and referring to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing or Simone Veil (the minister who introduced and passed the law on abortion in 1974, special guest of the UDI constitutive assembly, on the last Sunday), the new centrist party seems to turn back to the past inspiring old methods and recipes rather than to look at the future and make proposals to France and French people.

The UDI might be a simple copy of the UDF, needing the UMP to be very represented and influent in French political life. The executives of the ex-ruling party are carefully observing the emergence of this new political movement and the new political ambitions of Jean-Louis Borloo who wants to appear as an alternative for the 2017 presidential race, betting on a definitive Nicolas Sarkozy’s retirement of politics and the deep division of the UMP. The gamble is easy and audacious but with no guarantee of success for a party being the version 2.0 of the ex-UDF. Once again, it seems to be very difficult to the French Centre to be a real independent political force, because of the French political and institutional system, mainly.