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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Alain Juppé - the man who would not be (UMP) president - well not yet, anyway

Well,  candidates seem to be lining up in the race to become president of the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

It's a post which of course became vacant ever since Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president (of France that is) in 2007 and the party decided not to replace him at the head of the UMP because he was considered morally to be the natural leader of the party as well.

With Sarkozy no longer around  - well he is, but he's retired, temporarily or otherwise, from active politics - morals seem to have gone out of the window and the position is up for grabs again, with many also viewing it as a launching pad for a 2017 presidential (of the country that is - gosh this is fast becoming confusing) bid.

The latest to enter the race is one of Sarkozy's former right hand men and so often described as his "ancienne plume" for his undoubted writing talents, Henri Guaino.

No, that's not an exhortation for a puerile play on words, tempting as it might be to the more Sun-inspired headline writers among us.

Instead it's a serious bid from a man who says he wants to stand in the name of Gaullism, thus presumably implying that the rest - and there are four of them so far - else other than Gaullism?

The 55-year-old, who has been an elected member of parliament for all of five minutes - oh all right then, since June 2012 - will now join (take a deep breath) François Fillon, Jean-François Copé, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire in an attempt to gain the support of 8,000 UMP members to be able to stand in the November elections.

Yes, in the name of democracy and transparency, these things take time in France, with party members voting in the first round on November 18 and, if necessary, in a second round head-to-head a week later on November 25.

Something to brighten up the short days and long nights of early autumn then.

One name missing from the list though is perhaps the man many feel could have made a difference in reuniting the different factions of the UMP without rocking the proverbial boat too much; a link with the recent past from Jacques Chirac through Sarkozy and the party's very first president when it was created from the various strands of the right and centre right in 2002 - Alain Juppé.

Alain Juppé (from Wikipedia)

All right, so Juppé is a man with a tarnished political reputation; a former prime minister under Chirac and a foreign minister under Sarkozy.

He also comes complete with the almost requisite (for French politics) conviction for mishandling public funds - which put his political career on hold for a couple of years but didn't stop him from making a comeback as mayor of Bordeaux and holding high office twice (albeit very briefly the first time around) while Sarkozy was president.

At 67, some might consider him a little long in the tooth for a job he has already held, but with experience and talent on his side, he could have been a plausible alternative for UMP members looking for a statesmanlike figure at the head of the party.

But no.

In that time-honoured tradition of many who have gone before him, Juppé followed the lead of the likes of Jacques Delors in 1994 when he decided not to run as the Socialist party's candidate for president the following year, or Jean-Louis Borloo last October when he went on national television to say he wouldn't be a candidate in this year's presidential elections, by also making also the headlines in announcing something he would not be doing - namely standing.

"A simple answer to a simple question - no," he replied when asked last week on national radio whether he would be a candidate for the post of UMP party president.

"I think it's important not to confuse roles by giving the impression that the party is choosing a candidate for the 2017 elections. That'll be decided by primaries I hope," he continued.

"The one thing I can do at the moment is to ensure that the competition between the candidates who have declared themselves so far is a fair and orderly one which doesn't create divisions."


Damage limitation and words that don't necessarily rule out Juppé's potential interest in Higher Office.

Spoken like a real - French - politician. One who has seen and done just about everything and could still play a prominant political role in France's future.

Bring back the Juppettes?

Candidat à l'UMP ? "Non", répond Juppé par Europe1fr

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