French right-wing in last-ditch bid to end leadership war

3rd December 2012, Comments 0 comments

The two politicians engaged in a shambolic battle to lead France's right-wing opposition met Monday in a last-ditch bid to reach a deal ahead of a deadline imposed by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy if they don't stop squabbling.

Jean-Francois Cope -- the twice-declared winner of last month's vote for the leadership of the UMP party -- met with former prime minister Francois Fillon in the National Assembly.

If they do not come to an agreement on when to hold a fresh vote by Tuesday, Sarkozy plans to announce that they are both unfit to rule, sources close to the former president and ex-UMP leader have said.

Sarkozy's entourage said he was infuriated by the deadlock after the November 18 UMP election that was marred by allegations of irregularities and ballot-stuffing.

The UMP, the political heir to the movement founded by Charles de Gaulle after World War II, has been on the verge of collapse over the bitter and very public dispute between Cope and Fillon.

Both Fillon, 58, and Cope, 48, are fiscal conservatives advocating free-market policies and economic reforms, but Cope has carved out a niche on the right of the UMP with his tough-talking approach to immigration and Islam.

Sarkozy has no official post in the UMP after his defeat in the May presidential election to the Socialist Francois Hollande.

But he is anxious to keep the UMP together in case he decides to make a comeback bid for the presidency in 2017.

Sarkozy, who wields influence over both Cope and Fillon, is currently seen as the only unifying figure who can salvage the party.

© 2012 AFP

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