Former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, won the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party vote Saturday in what many view as the beginning of a new presidential bid. The former president won 64.5 percent of the vote crushing his rival Bruno le Maire. The pressure to win by a huge margin was on him as he aspired to get more than the 70 percent needed to keep his re-election efforts alive. The political scene was missed Sarkozy explained about his return to politics.
Opposing Francois Hollande, despite his low approval ratings at a record low of 13 percent, has proven difficult for the UMP, an umbrella of conservative parties in France. Sarkozy, 59, garnered 85 percent of the vote amounting to 60,000 people choosing him in 2004 when he was elected the party leader. He served in the presidential capacity from 2007 through 2012 but escaped politics after his loss to Hollande.
Close to 270,000 dues-paying members were able to vote. Over 50 percent of the party members voted in the election despite the process being slowed down due to a reported cyber-attack. The online voting system came under an “organized” attack temporarily halting the process according to UMP Secretary General Luc Chatel. The party was filing charges against the hackers and law enforcement were investigating the attack.
His rival, Le Maire, a former agricultural minister, won less than 29.2 percent of the vote. A third candidate, MP Herve Mariton, received 6.3 percent of the votes.
Nicolas Sarkozy relayed a message to his supporters through Facebook thanking them for voting him in and their mobilization, allowing him to win the UMP Party vote. Despite two years of internal conflict and quarrelling, voting him in was the best response in history of the UMP party. The win comes on the heels of Sarkozy being charged with corruption tied to his 2007 campaign which was later dropped this past September. He was credited as spear-heading the revival of France-U.S. ties, marrying a supermodel while in office, and deposing Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi.
A Socialist Party spokesman saw things differently and stated that the UMP campaign brought forth nothing new seen in France. According to Corinne Narassiguin, Sarkozy’s victory was not as triumphant as he expected. Florian Phillippot, far-right National Front spokesman, said that it was an utter failure on the behalf of the former president.
In 2016, the UMP will select the party member that will run against Hollande for the presidency. Many agents are saying that due to the lower than expected party turnout supporting Sarkozy, other UMP leaders may be encouraged to run against him. Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, former prime ministers, are looking to be the UMP presidential candidate.
A few Frenchmen dislike Sarkozy. He is the first president in French history to be detained by police. One object of their disdain is his high-profile private life. Critics have dubbed his one term as the “bling bling” presidency. Opposing candidates for the candidacy lauded Sarkozy’s election but seem reluctant on relinquishing their own ambitions for the presidency.
When Sarkozy left office in 2012, the leadership ballot degraded into a damaging commotion as Fillon declined to accept that Sarkozy ally Jean-Francoise Cope won. Fillon reiterated he would continue to defend his convictions and that unity was not equivalent to submission. The celebrated winner stepped down in May amid poor European elections as the National Front capitalized on voter displeasure. National Front leader, Marine Le Pen is expected to return unopposed as party leader in Lyon on Sunday.
The election results show that Sarkozy does not have as much support as he did in 2007. His recent vulnerabilities and legal matters have tarnished his glamour look. Regardless of the obstacles, Nicolas Sarkozy is eyeing a 2017 presidential bid and hopes to use the UMP Party vote as a win to catapult back into Elysee Palace.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by UMP – Flickr License