Eszter-Petronella SOÓS PhD

31. Jean-François Copé: one candidate less for 2017

Jean-François Copé, the President of the UMP is to quit his post on June 15, 2014. Oddly enough, it is not the tragic European Parliamentary electoral result that made him leave, but the Bygmalion affair, this strange party financing scandal that has been haunting the UMP for weeks now (with no real explanation in sight). Former President Nicolas Sarkozy should be happy about this: Jean-François Copé won’t come back from this low. He is officially off the market for 2017. But Sarkozy can’t be comfortable either: “dangerous” politicians want to be UMP president.

Jean-François Copé and the Bygmalion affair: what did he do?

We do not really know what the Bygmalion affair is, in spite of its deadly consequences. It might be about bookkeeping irregularities, about campaign financing irregularities, or, in the worst case scenario, about embezzling. On the other hand, we do know that this company, founded by close friends of Jean-François Copé, did issue (most likely) fake invoices during the 2012 Sarkozy campaign, and the party did indeed pay them. The key to the affair is to know why did the party pay them, that might make or break the case. Actors point fingers at each other, and in a close political community, that is notoriously the beginning of the end. Among these circumstances, Jean-François Copé lost all internal support and thus decided to quit. Up until the moment the congress elects a new president, a college of former Prime Ministers will lead the UMP.

The race is open: who will be President of the UMP?

There will be a huge fight for the position of UMP president, but not because that is such a nice job. All those people who wish to be candidate to the presidency (of the Republic), will want to start getting elected by being elected President of the UMP. That is logical: in order to be able to do a good campaign, they need the structure, the organization and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, Nicolas Sarkozy needs a UMP president who is strong, but not outstandingly strong, a person who is able to pull the party upwards, without endangering the Sarkozy come-back strategy (it seems to be an improbable combination…).  According to opinion polls, there are other senior politicians, besides Sarkozy, who are considered to be présidentiable in the UMP party (Alain Juppé and François FIllon comes to mind). The decision and the movements they make are just as important as the lobbying strategy of Sarkozy. This is going to be a prime time movie in the next months, and we will be right here watching it.