Russia Divides French Right’s Presidential Contenders

Nicolas Sarkozy
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, March 19, 2015 (EPP)

A major foreign-policy issue that divides the top three contenders for the French right’s presidential nomination is Russia.

BuzzFeed reports how Nicolas Sarkozy has transformed himself from a Vladimir Putin critic into a Vladimir Putin apologist since he lost the presidency in 2012.

The former president has criticized President François Hollande’s handling of relations with Russia. He argues the EU should suspend sanctions against Russia. And most controversially, the former president has endorsed a referendum annexing Crimea to Russia, a view that puts him at odds with most UN states.

François Fillon, Sarkozy’s former prime minister, has struck a conciliatory tone as well.

He told the magazine Valeurs actuelles this week it was “fortunate” Russia had intervened in the Syrian conflict, otherwise the self-proclaimed Islamic State might have reached Damascus by now.

In reality, Russia’s objective in Syria is to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad. It has not prioritized fighting the Islamic State, which mostly does battle with Western-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. Read more “Russia Divides French Right’s Presidential Contenders”

Former Premiers Knock Sarkozy Out of Presidential Contest

  • Former prime ministers François Fillon and Alain Juppé got the most support in the first round of the French center-right’s presidential primary on Sunday.
  • Of the two, Juppé is the more mainstream and pro-European candidate.
  • Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, placed third and was eliminated from the contest.
  • The winner will be decided in a second voting round next week. Read more “Former Premiers Knock Sarkozy Out of Presidential Contest”

Fillon Unexpectedly Surges in French Presidential Primary

Former French prime ministers François Fillon, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Alain Juppé make a statement to the media in Paris, July 8, 2014
Former French prime ministers François Fillon, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Alain Juppé make a statement to the media in Paris, July 8, 2014 (UMP)

Former French prime minister François Fillon appears to have upended the contest for his party’s presidential nomination only days away from the first voting round.

Alain Juppé, another former prime minister, has been in the lead for months, polling around 35 to 40 percent support.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, has consistently polled in second place with around 30 percent support.

Fillon didn’t get more than 10 percent until the start of this month but has now surged at Juppé’s expense and turned the primary into a three-way dead heat. Read more “Fillon Unexpectedly Surges in French Presidential Primary”

French Conservatives Seek Leadership from Former Premiers

François Fillon
French prime minister François Fillon in Paris, June 28, 2010 (British Embassy)

Following a disappointing European election result, and a financial scandal that forced party president Jean-François Copé to resign, France’s conservatives have appointed three former prime ministers to lead the Union pour un mouvement populaire.

“My first job is to shed light on the financial activities of the party,” said François Fillon, who served as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister for five years. Read more “French Conservatives Seek Leadership from Former Premiers”

French Opposition Rivals Agree to New Leadership Vote

The two candidates whose rivalry has split France’s former ruling party announced on Monday that they agree to call a new leadership vote to end their dispute.

Jean-François Copé, who was declared the winner in a primary election last month, and François Fillon, former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, said in a statement that a new vote will be called in October of next year for the leadership of the right-wing Union pour un mouvement populaire.

Copé, who served as the party’s secretary general for two years before he ran for its leadership, previously insisted that he wouldn’t agree to a revote until after the 2014 local elections. He argued that Fillon had crossed a “red line” by separating himself and 68 supporters from the main conservative faction in parliament.

Fillon narrowly lost the leadership bid against Copé but accused his opponent of vote rigging. Votes from France’s overseas territories were supposedly “forgotten” in the first count. Results from New Caledonia in the Pacific and two voting stations in Alpes-Maritimes in the southeast of France were invalidated in the second. In both instances, Copé secured a slim majority of primary votes. Read more “French Opposition Rivals Agree to New Leadership Vote”

Fillon Supports New Leadership Primary on French Right

Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1
Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1 (EPP)

Three weeks after his opponent Jean-François Copé was declared the winner in a leadership vote, former French prime minister François Fillon proposed on Tuesday to hold a new primary among right-wing voters — one in which he might not stand for election.

Fillon refused to concede defeat in November’s primary election, claiming that votes from France’s overseas territories had been “forgotten” in the count. An electoral committee for the conservative Union pour un mouvement populaire invalidated the results from New Caledonia in the Pacific and two voting stations in Alpes-Maritimes in the southeast of the country where it claimed there had been fraud. The committee finally put Copé ahead by 952 votes.

Fillon, who served as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister for five years and is considered more centrist, immediately announced that “the only worthwhile solution is a revote” and split the conservative delegation in parliament between his supporters and Copé’s. The latter took that as the crossing of a “red line” and rejected another election. A compromise proposal to organize a referendum on whether or not to call another vote was dismissed by both candidates.

The former premier reiterated his call for a revote on French radio on Tuesday. “If we are talking about a revote before the summer, with a reform of the statutes and fully opening the game to new candidates to ensure a reoxygenation of our party, then I am in favor,” he said.

In a veiled challenge to Copé, Fillon added that he would “probably not” stand in a primary election again. “My ambition is to rally the French around a plan for national recovery but not necessarily as leader,” he insisted. “I am not fighting for me.”

Copé, who served as the party’s secretary general for two years before he ran for its leadership, has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want to call another vote until after the 2014 local elections.

The infighting on the French right is as much about personalities as it is about its future electoral strategy. Copé, a hardliner and protégé of Sarkozy’s, has promised to stand aside if the former president decided to run again in 2017. Fillon has made no such promise but may be a more viable general election candidate as he can appeal to the center whereas Copé would likely draw votes from the far right.

A vast majority of French conservatives, if not a majority of French voters, would by now rather Sarkozy returned to the presidency than either of his possible successors. Their popularity, especially Copé’s, has plummeted. According to an opinion poll published in Figaro Magazine late last month, 70 percent of French conservatives supported Fillon, down from 81 percent in October. 44 percent approved of Copé, down from 64 percent before the primary.

Among the general electorate, Fillon enjoyed the sympathy of 38 percent of voters, down from 44 percent a month before. Just one in five voters still saw a role for Copé in national politics, down from 27 percent in October.

Fillon Divides French Right, Copé Rejects Truce

French conservative leader Jean-François Copé on Wednesday rejected a proposal put forth by former president Nicolas Sarkozy to hold a referendum on whether or not to repeat the party’s primary election after his challenger François Fillon took 68 deputies with him to form a breakaway faction in parliament.

Fillon, who narrowly lost a leadership bid against Copé last week, had announced the formation of a separate conservative group in the National Assembly on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he got seventy out of 132 conservative members of the upper chamber of parliament to line up behind a proposal to call a new leadership election, prompting Copé to reject a compromise brokered by Sarkozy to organize a referendum among party members. “The red line has been crossed and I draw the consequences from that,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Fillon, for his part, insisted, “The only solution that is wise, efficient and democratic is a new vote.” Read more “Fillon Divides French Right, Copé Rejects Truce”

Former French Premier Splits Conservatives in Parliament

Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1, 2012
Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1, 2012 (EPP)

Former French prime minister François Fillon announced the formation of a breakaway conservative faction in parliament on Tuesday, a day after former budget minister Jean-François Copé was again declared the winner in the party’s leadership contest.

Copé was originally named the winner by a margin of less than one hundred votes. Fillon insisted that “forgotten” primary election results from France’s overseas territories had shifted the outcome in his favor but an appeals committee disputed his claim on Monday, invalidating the results from New Caledonia in the Pacific and two voting stations in Alpes-Maritimes in the southeast of France to put Copé ahead by 952 votes.

Fillon, who served as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s premier for five years and is considered more centrist, said “the only worthwhile solution is a revote” in three months’ time under the control of an independent commission. “Either we save the UMP together democratically or we are not hard and I will draw the political conclusions.” Read more “Former French Premier Splits Conservatives in Parliament”