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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

French opposition UMP party as united as ever in perfect disharmony

Exciting news from France's opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

Jean-François Copé and François Fillon have agreed to let members decide on whether to hold another vote for the post of party leader.

Breathe deeply before you read on. Some of what follows will be more than confusing.

The UMP is in a bit of a mess at the moment. Actually it has been for quite a while now.

For example, take its reaction (sorry to have to mention this again) to the anti same-sex marriage "Manif pour tous" march in Paris last weekend.

Among those taking part in the demonstration were the party's president, Jean-François Copé, Henri Guaino - a former speechwriter to Nicolas Sarkozy when he was in office and now a member of parliament in his own right - and Laurent Wauquiez, a former minister and a supporter of Copé's "defeated" challenger for the leadership of the party - François Fillon.

Notable by their absence though were Fillon himself, Alain Juppé - a former minister of just about anything you can think of and the current mayor of Bordeaux, and the party's likely candidate for next year's race to be mayor of Paris, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM).

Copé - ever the slick opportunist - was plainly using the demonstration as a means by which to protest against the current government and drum up support for the party in next year's local elections.

While for Guaino, it was clearly a matter of sticking to his principals - even if he had mistakenly voted in favour of the bill to allow same-sex marriage when it passed its final reading in parliament - and he was "proud" to have taken part.

Juppé, who unlike Guiano had managed to hit the right button and say "non" in the final vote - had previously stated he would be a no-show as the law had been passed and it had to be respected.

And NKM, who had abstained in the parliamentary vote, obviously had other more important issues on her mind namely that of the far-right Front National's call  to vote against her when polls open in the UMP's primary to choose its candidate for mayor of Paris.


On the subject of "voting" that brings us back neatly to an issue that remains unresolved and illustrates the state of health of the party...the struggle for the leadership.

You thought it was over?


Jean-François Cope and François Fillon (screenshot from i>Télé report)

Remember Copé's glorious "victory" over Fillon in last year's battle when both men declared themselves to have won and how the party split in two for a while after claims of vote-rigging and fraud?

The debacle dragged on for weeks until the two men and their supporters managed to bury the proverbial hatchet (somewhere) and reach some sort of working agreement.

They created an internal structure stuffed to bursting point with vice presidents to represent the two very different directions the party was trying to take at the same time.

Even though Copé perhaps has had the upper hand - after all he's the one who holds the post of party leader - his legitimacy has been questioned, and the issue of whether to hold another vote has never really gone away...until now.

Because on Monday the two men announced a solution which will put an end to divisions within the party and steer it on a true red, white and blue course for the future.

They've agreed to let party members decide whether there should be another vote to choose the party president.

Yes in other words (and sorry, there's no way to make this clear without constant repetition) their recommendation is that party members vote in June on whether they should vote again in December.

Now doesn't that make complete and utter political (non)sense?

Pass the gin.

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