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France

Split on French right widens as Fillon forms own parliamentary group

media François Fillon (L) Jean-François Copé (R) AFP/BERTRAND LANGLOIS /JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN

François Fillon announced on Tuesday the creation of a new parliamentary group, made up of his supporters, in his latest move in the vicious ongoing battle with Jean-François Copé over the leadership of the UMP, Nicolas Sarkozy’s right wing political party.

If a new UMP leadership election is held within the next three months and under the supervision of an independent commission, in accordance with Fillon wishes, then the new political group will be dissolved, he told his supporters at a meeting this morning.

Preparations to launch a judicial challenge against Copé would also then be halted, former minister and Fillon supporter François Baroin explained to journalists afterwards.

“We are neither beaten, nor silent, we stand upright” Fillon insisted, declaring “Nobody today is president of the UMP”.

The new group is to be called Rassemblement-UMP and more than 50 parliamentarians could join up, including several from the Senate, said Fillonist Laurent Wauquiez.

Meanwhile, Copé rejected the idea of holding a new election in the near future.

He told French radio station France Info that under the rules, a vote should be preceded by a six month campaign period, and that “in the current climate of bitterness and heated emotions” it was “not the right time”.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Michèle Tabarot, one of Jean-François Copé’s closest supporters, also rejected the idea of a new vote. She dismissed the new online petition calling for a one, launched by parliamentarian Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, because it was signed by UMP supporters, rather than activists.

The petition has been signed by over 16,000 people so far.

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