You might be wondering just what is going on here in France with the supposedly Centrist Right Conservative UMP Party. This was the Party that had the majority and the presidency and then lost it under Nicolas Sarkozy. A very big part of what disenchanted the French public with UMP Policies are embodied by Jean-Francois Cope, who was the General Secretary of the UMP Party and Sarkozy Government spokesman. Cope was very much behind the push to the far right, adopting the positions and anti immigrant rhetoric of the extreme far right nationalist party, Le Front National, to try to co-opt the votes of the far right as a strategy to retain power and re elect Sarkozy in the last election. They lost and not only the presidency, but the Socialists now control the Senate and the Parliament as well many of the local regions of France. Sarkozy has retired to the background. He still considers himself the puppet master, but this is a puppet show that has degenerated into a Guignol.
The UMP (Union pour un Movement Populaire) had to reorganize itself and of course, elect a new leader. They at first had derided the Socialists when they held their own referendum about a year ago which elected Francois Hollande as their party leader. The Party leader normally is the person who will be the future presidential candidate. The Socialists had a contested contest which became more interesting on a personal level as the players were Hollande, the at the time Party Secretary Martine Aubry and Hollandes ex companion of quite a few years and mother of their children, the candidate in the last election, who lost to Sarkozy, Segolene Royale. The UMP snipers mocked the Socialist experiment, but Hollande won their "primary" and went on to win the presidency.
So, the UMP decided to hold their own referendum and the candidates were Francois Fillon, the more centrist Prime Minister under Sarkozy and Cope. Neither man is especially well liked, but Cope has the knack of creating controversy by his outrageous rhetoric. A few weeks before the election he had made statements in a speech about how Muslims were so cruel that they would take a chocolate biscuit (actually he said "une pain au chocolat...a croissant with a piece of chocolate melted in it) from a baby during the Ramadam fasting period.
Cope also had the machinery of the party under his control and he seemed to be emulating Karl Rove. The election took place on November 18th and immediately descended into chaos as both candidates claimed they had won and that there had been extensive cheating at the polls. There was a count, and then two recounts and finally, Cope was declared the winner by a few hundred votes. Fillon pointed out that the votes from some of France's overseas territories had not been counted. It was kind of humorous as UMP representatives admitted on national television that they had never even heard of Wallis et Futuna...a French Department in the South Pacific.
Fillon became more entrenched in his position that there had been extensive vote rigging and demanded a new election. Cope became more entrenched claiming he had seized power and would hold it by force. Fillon announced that he was going to start his own party and take his deputies who supported him. Now this is more serious than it might appear on the surface. The UMP Party is millions of Euros in debt. In the throes of exhibitionist power under Sarkozy, they build a flashy new administrative building in Paris. Political parties are subsidized by the government and the subsidy depends on the representation of the party. In the last few years, the UMP had bled members as rival groups have spun off...they reunite for common votes, but the centrist right is fairly fractured as it is. If Fillon actually formed his Party, the RUMP (really, that would be the acronym) the UMP would be effectively bankrupt.
In the last few days, Fillon has grown stronger and the public support for Cope has plummeted as he is seen with in his own party as a dictator seizing control. He has rejected any hint at a new election. The extreme right Front National is trying to pick up the spoils. The Socialists are in total control of the legislature with out any organized or coherent opposition. They have been passing their mandates left and right! Free Abortion! Kids have greater access to contraception with out parental interference in the schools. The educational system is being reorganized. Gay marriage will be legal in a few weeks. We are on the verge of nationalizing a huge Metal Company owned by the Indian Corporation Mittal which had been threatening to close it down and move it to India. Immigration and naturalization has suddenly become standardized through out the country instead of being the patch work system of regulations it was before.
Things are so dire for the UMP, that they called in Sarkozy to negotiate. He of course threatened and gave them until today to make up their minds to have the new election. In a very sharp example of his waning influence, both parties walked out of the talks and seem further apart than they were before.
The headlines in the French Press today said, Two Deaf People Screaming At Each Other!.
Ain't life grand?