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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Handbags at dawn - Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé

Ah. Politics is such a fickle profession.

"Friends" come and "friends" go - as befits the occasion.

And the odd feud along the way, seemingly forgetten when the two (or more) protagonists are reconciled is...well, frankly, par for the course.

Right now though, there's trouble apparently brewing (yet again) for the opposition centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) as certain figures jostle for position ahead of the party's planned primary (some time in 2016) to choose the candidate for the 2017 presidential election.

Yes, it might seem a fair distance away - and the battle for the leadership (quite a separate matter) hasn't yet taken place - but territory is already being marked in the very finest of...well, manners in which territory is traditionally marked in the animal kingdom.

Remember (yet again) that the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, threw his proverbial hat into the ring for the lUMP eadership campaign last week - pitting him against two other declared contenders, Bruno Le Maire and Hervé Mariton.

And although he hasn't actually said he'll seek the party's nomination for 2017, all the talk is that is really his ultimate goal.

Should he decide to enter that particular fray, he'll find himself up against at least two other declared candidates - both of whom served under him during his time as president: François Fillon, his prime minister during five years, and Alain Juppé, who served as foreign minister for the final 15 months of Sarkozy's "reign".

While both represent a challenge to Sarkozy, it's Juppé, with his wealth of political experience (including as the former leader of the UMP 2002-2004, prime minister under Jacques Chirac 1995-1997 and twice foreign minister as well as spells at defence and environment) and popularity who probably presents the biggest danger.

Alain Juppé (screenshot from "Le Grand rendez-vous" Europe 1, September 21, 2014)

Seemingly eager to bury the hatchet (but where), or perhaps better said, dissuade him from standing...or both...during his 45-minute televised interview last weekend, Sarkozy said of Juppé, "I met him when I was 20 years old. He has become a partner, a friend and a companion. He's someone I admire greatly."

Ah. That's nice, isn't it. Quite the proverbial olive branch.

Except in private, Sarkozy has apparently been saying something quite different according to the weekly satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné.

It  reminds its readers that at the beginning of September (a couple of weeks after Juppé had said he would be standing in the 2016 primary - a selection process not at all to Sarkozy's liking), Sarkozy is rumoured to have said (in private of course) that he would "kill him" (politically speaking...Juppé's response on hearing the rumour was that Sarkozy "knew where to find him").

And according to the newspaper, Sarkozy has once again been firing salvoes in private, especially over Juppé's age and "moral" lecturing.

"Juppé will be 72 years old in 2017 and has an 18 month suspended prison sentence (for abuse of public funds), behind him," he's reported to have said.

"Do you think he scares me or that he's the right person to give me a lesson in morals?"

Juppé isn't exactly a political shrinking violet though. On the contrary, he's a seasoned scrapper, albeit it with rather more humour, perhaps more cutting and incisive and certainly more refined.

While Sarkozy was explaining his reasons on France 2 on Sunday evening for his political comeback, Juppé was unveiling on his blog the sort of programme he would be putting to party members during the primary.

And on Tuesday he told BFM TV that it was clear the battle had begun.

"I know that today the match has started," he said, poking fun at the idea that Sarkozy would try to change the name of the UMP to rid it of the less than positive image it has had over the past couple of years.

"You know, everything can be changed," he said.

"Rather than call it the UMP we can rename it PMU (also the name of the state-controlled betting system, Pari mutuel urbain). If that's the change, it won't exactly be fundamental."

The war of words has begun - and the campaign (should Sarkozy eventually declare) could well prove to be a rough one.

To be continued...

Juppé sort les armes contre Sarkozy by 20Minutes

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