France’s conservative UMP party, heir to the traditions of Charles de Gaulle and Nicolas Sarkozy, has been split in two after a vote to elect a new party president was tainted by allegations of box-stuffing.
Mediation attempts have failed, meaning that for more than a week the Socialist party has been able to push through their legislation without being hindered by a functioning opposition.
Centrist-leaning Francois Fillon has formed a rump party after refusing to accept a final count which has him losing by less than a thousand votes. But analysts say the debate goes to the heart of the UMP and their ability to win back the center electorate. The disputed winner, Jean-Francois Cope, is known as “Sarkozy Lite” for his nationalist perspective and repeated attacks on Muslims.
Many believe Fillon’s breakaway group is an effort to end the xenophobic shift initiated by Sarkozy, who was the first conservative leader to embrace policies normally reserved for the extreme-right National Front.
Cope has refused the new vote demanded by Fillon, and arbitration efforts by Sarkozy and other conservative heavyweights have gone nowhere. For now, the French left is charting the nation’s course unopposed.
If the UMP does shift to the far right it would mirror the conservative turn of the ruling Socialist party. It appears that all of France is turning to the right, what remains to be seen is just how far.