French right opposition leader rejects internal vote

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 4:05pm

France’s right-wing opposition UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope on Wednesday rejected a proposal for an internal party vote on whether to rerun the leadership vote he won.

Cope rejected demands for a fresh vote after the formal announcement that his rival for the leadership, Francois Fillon, had formed his own faction inside parliament.

The conditions for the formation of an internal party referendum had not been met, said Cope in a statement.

“The red line has been crossed and I am drawing the conclusions from that,” he added after the formation of Fillon’s parliamentary group was announced in the parliament’s official proceedings.

“From now on, I am only going to be the main opponent of [French President] Francois Hollande.”

Cope, an ally of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, had already on Tuesday brushed aside Sarkozy’s suggestion - reported by several informed sources - for a fresh ballot.

“The time is not right in the heat of the moment, in the bitterness ... to say we must vote again right away,” Cope told French radio on Tuesday.

But Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, struck back Tuesday after a meeting with his supporters. They announced the formation of a new parliamentary faction, which would be dissolved as soon as a new vote was held.

Cope’s statement Wednesday however suggests that as far as he is concerned,

the dispute is over and it is time to get on with the business of opposition.

The UMP, the political heir to the party founded by Charles de Gaulle after World War II, is experiencing one of its worst ever crises after accusations of rigging marred a November 18 election pitting Fillon against his hardline rival Cope.

The ridicule foisted on the party over the leadership debacle has done serious damage to the UMP’s image. It has been a windfall for Hollande as he struggles with a flat economy and falling popularity.