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Monday, 26 November 2012

Never mind Alain Juppé - you never stood a chance

Plenty of people thought he was the man for the job; Alain Juppé, one of the founders and the first president of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) when it saw the light of day back in 2002 as the Union pour la majorité présidentielle (Union for the presidential majority) was the person could break the deadlock between Jean-François Copé and Francois Fillon.

(screenshot BFM TV)
Alas, "Super Juppé", the man who, so many political pundits, fellow party members and even opponents have praised and/or described as a real "Homme d'État" has failed to bind the union that, over the past week, has redefined the term French farce.

Maybe it's not surprising though, because Juppé's career hasn't really been so "Super" after all has it?

Yes, he has held high office; prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister - twice and ecology minister, and he has been mayor of Bordeaux for 15 of the past 17 years so - on the face of it - he definitely has the political credentials.

But he also has all the usual baggage which goes with political office in France.

He was prime minister under Jacques Chirac from 1995 to 1997, drafting into government a number of so-called "Juppettes" - the somewhat sexist and condescending term used to describe his appointing 12 women into ministerial positions - and overseeing a jolly old period when strikes became almost a national pastime in France.

Juppé also "did" the typical political French thing of being convicted in 2004 - for mishandling public funds and finding himself "suspended" from holding political office of any sort for 10 years.

As this is France though, Juppé bounced back (a little faster than expected) and after a "period of rehabilitative convalescence" in Canada, he was re-elected as mayor of Bordeaux in 2006.

Proving his full political credentials had been re-instated, Juppé was back in government - briefly - when Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidential election in 2007.

He was named number two behind the prime minister François Fillon, as minister of ecology, but had to stand down (again) after failing to be elected in the parliamentary elections which followed (Sarkozy had made it a requirement that any minister standing but losing would have to resign).

Towards the end of Sarkozy's reign, Juppé was back in government - this time replacing the disgraced Michèle Alliot-Marie as foreign minister and using all his statesmenship to play second fiddle to the French president as Sarkozy took over affairs in Libya and later in the year bringing about a speedy diplomatic resolution to affairs in Syria - not.

Yes there was no doubt that with such a political pedigree and success rate, Juppé was the obvious choice to mediate between Copé and Fillon.

Now that he has thrown in the towel the party's only hope is probably the very person whose counsel should have been sought in the first place...

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