Sarkozy’s UMP plunges into crisis

Sarkozy’s UMP plunges into crisis

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
France’s main right-wing opposition and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP was close to collapse after talks failed to resolve a bitter leadership dispute and an ex-prime minister vowed to take the battle to the courts.

Called in to mediate the damaging dispute, party heavyweight Alain Juppe threw in the towel after only 45 minutes of talks between ex-Prime Minister Francois Fillon and party Secretary-General Jean-Francois Cope late Nov. 25.

Fillon quickly blamed his rival and raised the stakes by promising to turn to the courts. “Jean-Francois Cope holds sole responsibility for a failure that hurts our party,” Fillon said in a statement.

Fillon and Cope have traded accusations of fraud and bad faith since Nov. 18’s party vote ended with Cope ahead by a handful of votes. Cope was declared the winner of the leadership battle by a margin of just 98 votes in a contest in which more than 150,000 party members voted.

The party electoral commission has since said that ballots cast in France’s overseas territories that were not counted would have reversed the result. The contested leadership vote has thrown into turmoil UMP and raised the spectre of an unprecedented split on the right.