French politics

And the winner is… Nicolas Sarkozy!

Important : article writen the 18th of November

François Fillon (ex-France Prime Minister) and Jean-François Copé, rulling for the UMP leadership

On this Sunday, UMP members came to elect the new leader of their movement and decide between François Fillon (ex-Nicolas Sarkozy’s Premier) and Jean-François Copé, after several weeks of a harsh and violent electoral campaign.

After this vote, the two camps claim the victory and the two camps are accusing having cheated each other. Indeed, the François Fillon’s supporters denounce some irregularities during the vote in favour of Jean-François Copé. On his side, the current Secretary General’s supporters have no doubt on their victory and already call out for the unity of the party a subtle way to nuance the accusation of François Fillon who decided to consult the instances of the UMP on the validity of the election, before giving his expression.

Despites a correct turnout, the UMP seems to be clearly divided as the French Socialist Party in 2008, just after the Congress of Reims, for the election of the First Secretary, the leader of the party. After a failed Congress, Martine Aubry and Segolene Royal struggled to be the new opposition leader. The current mayor of Lille won the game in spite of accusations of irregularities and frauds in some PS key-federations. At that time, the conservative UMP was not shy to make fun of the socialists and to laugh at calamitous elections, even predicting very serious impacts for the unity of the French Socialist Party.

UMP Headquarters, Paris

Four years after, UMP is now in this unenviable situation especially as the vote clearly shows no one of the two candidates was able to dominate the other and impose his ideas, his strategy for the main French conservative party and impose himself as a natural and uncontested leader, appearing as obvious for his movement. The rightist strategy of Jean-François Copé (“the uninhibited right”) as the moderated line of François Fillon did not convinced a clear and uncontested majority of UMP activists, sign of the disorientation of a party which, ten years after its creation, has still major difficulties to turn over a new leaf and refers to its glorious past.

Finally, the real winner is the UMP leadership election is Nicolas Sarkozy. Still officially retired, he knows he is still popular within the party and vis-à-vis the activists who still dream of his come-back in 2017. Once again, the ex-French president appears as a solution, an obvious fact for members face to François Fillon and Jean-François Copé who are going to have all the difficulties to rally the movement and heal the wounds of an internal battle which is going to leave traces.

With such a vote, it will be probably uneasy for the French Conservatives to embattle and appear as a credible political force vis-à-vis the Ayrault Government and as a mature and forward political party, whoever the winner. Copé and Fillon are clearly aware the fact the shadow of Nicolas Sarkozy will be present as a lead weight on an UMP still watching its previous victories and denying any self-criticism to minimize the French Left victory as the essayist and businessman Alain Minc considers. It will always be a solace to the UMP members and the genuine Sarkozy’s supporters who are waiting for his come-back. Nonetheless, it is not sure it’s very useful for the French conservatives who have to do self-criticism if they want to be back to power.

EDIT: The COCOE (UMP Internal Electoral Committee) finally declared Jean-François Copé as winner by 50,03% of polls, the 19th of November.