Gunfight at the UMP Corral?
For the past twelve days, since November 18, the French media have had a field day delighting in the internal rivalry, unquenchable ambitions and reciprocal accusations within the UMP party, the party of Nicolas Sarkozy, that may be on the brink of implosion. As far as Marine Le Pen is concerned the UMP is history, and though she claims she is not gloating, she has good reason to since numerous "Umpistes" have already turned in their membership card to join the Front National. The core of the explosive event is the election of a party chairman, a rather routine event in politics and one that does not usually make canisters of ink flow. This time, however, things went awry and the two candidates found themselves locked in a what appears to be an unresolvable conflict, though things could be settled easily by holding another election. But logic is not the order of the day here.
Trying to find a summary of this huge story has been difficult. Pages of narrative, cartoons, analyses and predictions fill the websites as well as recriminations from all quarters over the deplorable conduct of the two candidates, each determined to be declared winner, each refusing to give an inch, each looking more ridiculous than the other. Some call it a Punch and Judy Show.
The two candidates for chairman of the UMP are former Prime Minister François Fillon (below left, favored by Nicolas Sarkozy) and Jean-François Copé who has been general secretary of the party since November 2010. Copé is also mayor of Meaux and deputy in the National Assembly. On the night of the election (November 18) the counting of the votes dragged on as voting irregularities were cited in Nice and elsewhere. At 11:30 p.m. Copé declared himself winner and asked his opponent to concede. But at 11:48 Fillon announced he had the victory by 224 votes. At 12:04 a.m. former Justice Minister Rachida Dati asked Fillon to admit he had been beaten, and that Copé had won by 1058 votes. During the long night it became clear that a banal election had turned into an egregious farce as each side heatedly accused the other of voter fraud.
According to Le Parisien:
The next day COCOE, the internal agency that validates the votes, announced that Copé was the victor with 50.03%. Copé declared: "I have no bitterness or rancor. What unites us is infinitely superior to what divides us." But François Fillon said he could "not accept the result" and spoke of a "political and moral fracture" within the UMP.
The day after the election (November 19), the party was plunged into total chaos, and the two candidates continued to proclaim victory.
Mayor of Bordeaux and former Foreign Minister Alain Juppé called for calm and warned the very existence of the UMP was in jeopardy.
Note: Need I point out that the very existence of the UMP, under men like Sarkozy, Fillon, Juppé and Copé is the primary reason why France is in the quagmire she is in today? Copé moved an inch or two to the right and this seems to be the cause of the "fracture" Fillon is speaking of.
The situation encapsulated above dragged on for several days. As of November 28, there was no resolution and François Fillon announced he had created a secessionist party called the Rassemblement-UMP or more conveniently the RUMP. If that doesn't make you smile nothing will. A very long webpage (one of many) from Le Point follows the events of November 28 over a twelve-hour period, from 7:50 a.m. until 7:52 p.m. During this time, members of the UMP hurled criticisms, fulminations, pleas for reconciliation, warnings and unctuous reassurances at anybody who would listen. Calls for a referendum, a new election, and for the dissolution of the just-formed RUMP filled the air. If anyone doubts the impotence of the UMP, former minister of Defense, Justice, Interior and Foreign Affairs under Chirac and Sarkozy, Michèle Aliot-Marie will remind you:
"I am exasperated because this (internal struggle) is all they are talking about, when there are many topics to put forth, such as unemployment, competition, or the broken promises of the president of the Republic."
She couldn't say: "There are many topics to put forth such as immigration, population substitution, crime, urban decay, Islamization, halal slaughter, Brussels, persecution of Christians, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, gang rapists who go free, etc… " She couldn't say that because the UMP doesn't think in those terms. For five years the party skirted the major issues, concentrating on non-essentials and non-issues. So now she is exasperated… Aren't we all.
Somewhere along the line Nicolas Sarkozy himself attempted to intervene in the fratricidal duel and has been accused of overstepping the bounds of his position as member of the Constitutional Council. Some are saying he can't wait to get back in the ring. But I think Marine Le Pen and the Front National will sock him a KO this time.
She is the great benefactor of this bedlam. According to an article published at Le Point she has declared the UMP "finished". Redefining the meaning of the UMP (Union for a popular movement) she spelled it out:
"Union? There isn't any. It's a division of unheard-of brutality. Movement? They aren't moving. They're stuck. Popular? This is all very far removed from the interests of the people." Who is the most to blame of the two? "Clearly, it is Jean-François Copé. He is the self-proclaimed chairman and he thinks he is going to dupe the French with a commission that is totally under his control."
When asked if the UMP crisis was benefiting the FN she replied: "We began multiplying by three when the crisis began. Yesterday we were multiplying by five the number of new members we welcome daily. And these are only memberships via the Internet. There are many people who come directly to the local party offices to sign up."
Those of you who read French and who can't get enough of this soap opera playing into MLP's hands so fortuitously, can turn to François Desouche, whence comes the merry spoof below, for an webpage replete with videos, commentary and illustrations that will see you well through the holidays.