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France

Crisis in Sarkozy's UMP deepens: Copé rejects mediation, claims proof of pro-Fillon fraud

media Fillon on French channel TF1 on Wednesday 21 November Reuters/Charles Platiau

Jean-François Copé, narrowly declared president of the opposition UMP after a chaotic election, on Thursday rejected a demand from opponent François Fillon to hand over charge of the party to a provisional directorate, headed by party elder Alain Juppé.

134 right wing parliamentarians also issued a joint declaration on Wednesday calling on Juppé to step in, to try to sort out the mess in the party.

Supporters of both Copé and Fillon traded accusations of fraud in Sunday’s vote. Fillon conceded defeat on Tuesday night, though he now claims he did so in the interests of party unity.

On Wednesday he dropped a bombshell by announcing that Copé was not the real winner, because the election monitoring body had admitted that the votes in 3 French overseas departments had been “forgotten” in the count. When included, he said, these ballots gave him a 26 vote lead.

Fillon, who was Prime Minister of France throughout the five years of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, told French television channel TF1 that he no longer wanted to be party president, but that he did not accept that Copé had won the vote and that the party could not continue “a lie”.

On Thursday morning Fillon called for the publication of the “full results, federation by federation” in a letter to activists.

Copé hit back on RTL radio today, calling Fillon “a bad loser”. Copé declared that there was nothing to mediate, that the issue was one of facts and law.

He said he had “no problem” with Fillon’s threat to mount a legal challenge if he did not stand aside, declaring that only a judge could decide whether the election should be re-run, and that even if there was a new vote, he would in any case, “win again.”

Copé said that within a few hours he would reveal proof of “massive, deliberate, premeditated fraud at the ballot in New Caledonia, one of the three departments, along with Mayotte and Wallis and Futuna where the votes were not counted. Copé declared that Fillon was “well aware that there was fraud.”

He also repeated allegations of fraud in favour of Fillon, in polling stations in Nice.

Copé insisted that Fillon and his advisors, having lost the leadership battle were now trying to engineer the implosion of the UMP.

It seems hard to imagine that the UMP can survive the bitter battle now being openly fought between supporters of both men.

Today UMP Member of Parliament Jacques Myard appealed to them to get together “away from the cameras” to agree a “ceasefire” or both of them “will lose all credibility.”

There are already signs that UMP supporters are losing patience. Jean-Louis Borloo who heads a new UDI centre-right party, said that overnight 1200 people registered to join up.

Both Copé and Fillon hoped to use the leadership of the UMP as a springboard for candidacy in France’s 2017 presidential elections, though Copé says he would stand aside if Sarkozy decided to return to politics.

But, to the delight of the ruling Socialist party, and the fascination of the media, both appear severely damaged by this week’s dramatic events.

 

 

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