The disintegration of the French right? – UMP Congress 2012

What is happening to the French parliamentary right? The party congress of the main party of the right in France, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), organized to elect a new leadership after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in May, has triggered the first open internal conflict in the UMP since its foundation ten years ago and may yet lead to its disintegration in the near future.

The foreign press has touched on these events and the crisis of the right in France, but this post aims to provide a much more thorough analysis of the lead-up and background to the crisis, the chronology of the crisis and the future of the French right.

Background: The ‘Families’ of the Right

The Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire, UMP) was founded in 2002 with the aim of uniting the disparate forces of the right and centre-right in French politics and to provide then-President Jacques Chirac with a solid party machine. Until the creation of the UMP, the French right had been divided between various “families”.

Chirac, since 1976, had been the dominant figure of the neo-Gaullist family, organized in the Rally for the Republic (Rassemblement pour la République, RPR). The Gaullist movement, founded by General Charles de Gaulle, has seen its ideological direction change over the years as its self-proclaimed leaders reinvented Gaullism to their advantage and their liking  The original Gaullist movement had hoped to transcend the left-right cleavage, and to some extent it did because it attracted a fair number of left-wing Gaullists (Gaullistes de gauche) who came from the social-Christian tradition, the Radical Party or even the socialist tradition. However, by and large, Gaullism quickly became an ideology of the right; though it represented a brand of right-wing politics which is unique to France and rather different from the dominant conservative or liberal-conservative ideologies of other major right-wing parties in Europe. At its heart, Gaullism believes in the ‘greatness of France’ and from this observation stemmed its attachment to the independence of France – refusing its subordination to supranational organizations (EU, NATO), superpowers (the US and the USSR) and global economic powerhouses. Domestically, Gaullism supports a strong state, with a strong and stable executive branch playing a central role. Economically, traditional Gaullist dogma rejected economic liberalism and preferred an interventionist (dirigiste) state. It claimed to represent a third way to liberal capitalism and Marxist revolutionary socialism.

Gaullism retained its influence after de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969 and his death the following year, originally due to the leadership of his movement by his allies and lieutenants (Georges Pompidou, Pierre Messmer, Jacques Chaban-Delmas). In 1976, Chirac, a young Gaullist who had sunk Chaban-Delmas’ 1974 presidential candidacy in Giscard’s favour, managed to seize control of the Gaullist movement, create the RPR and transform the new RPR into his own personal machine. In the process, he sidelined the old guard. Chirac reinvented Gaullism several times, moving from his 70s reformist social democracy (the so-called travaillisme à la française) towards Chicago School monetarism (imitating Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher) and euroscepticism in the 1980s before shifting back leftwards after 1995, with his campaign theme of fracture sociale.

The Gaullist movement was never a homogeneous family. Internal divisions increased in the late 80s and throughout the 1990s, and while ideological direction differentiated some of the emergent factions, personality played a large role. In 1990, Chirac’s leadership (like that of Giscard in the UDF) faced challenges from a young generation of “renewers” (les rénovateurs) and then faced an organized opposition led by Philippe Séguin and Charles Pasqua – representing more orthodox and eurosceptic Gaullism – at a 1990 congress (the opposition won around 31%). In 1995, the RPR split between Chirac and Prime Minister Édouard Balladur ahead of the presidential election, and if Balladur’s unsuccessful presidential candidacy received most of its support from the UDF it also received support from certain non-aligned figures of the RPR, notably Sarkozy. In 1999, the first and only direct elections for the leadership of the RPR, Chirac’s candidate (Jean-Paul Delevoye) was defeated by Michèle Alliot-Marie, nowadays seen as one of the last standing chiraquiennes but in 1999 a non-aligned contender opposed to Chirac’s inner circle. In the first round, two other candidates had stood: François Fillon, a protégé of Séguin and the candidate of “social Gaullism” (a more centre-left faction hostile to neoliberalism and supranationalism and supportive of a stronger government defending the welfare state); and Patrick Devedjian (backed by Jean-François Copé), a balladurien from 1995 who represented the liberal and pro-European centre-right within the RPR.

Against Gaullism, the dominant family after 1981, stood other families: the Christian democrats or démocrates sociaux, the liberal “Orléaniste” right and the right-wing radical tradition. In 1978, these families united to form a broad decentralized party, the Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratie française, UDF), which included the Christian democratic CDS, the liberal PR and the right-wing Radical Party (PRV), among others.

The Christian democratic family finds its roots in the Catholic Church’s social teachings and it is the direct heir of the post-war Popular Republican Movement (MRP) and the distant heir of the pre-war social Christian tradition of Albert de Mun or the interwar PDP. The Christian democratic tradition actively supports European federalism. Leaders of this family included, at the outset, Jean Lecanuet, who was progressively replaced by a young generation led, most notably, by François Bayrou.

The liberal family, whose most notable leader was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, finds its roots in the so-called Orleanist tradition of the right. As such, it represents an internationalist and pro-European brand of liberal-conservatism which actively supports economic liberalism, while also being fairly liberal on moral issues.

In his seminal work on the French right, René Rémond differentiated between the three main families of the right: the Bonapartist tradition, the Orleanist tradition and the legitimst tradition. The remnants of the legitimist tradition – ultra-conservative – are found outside the parliamentary right. Gaullism, with its populist appeal (notably through the active use of referendums to legitimate its power and policies) and authoritarian undertones (favouring a strong, centralized and executive-dominated state), represented the Bonapartist family. Liberalism, on the other hand, with its internationalist and economically liberal orientation, is the pure avatar of the Orleanist family. Furthermore, the liberals/Orleanists represent a more ‘elitist’ faction of the right, more reticent towards populist and plebiscitary appeals and more supportive of parliamentary government, a less centralized state and less dominant executive.

The right-wing radical tradition stems from the majority faction of the old Radical Party which did not support the Common Programme of the left in 1972. Born on the far-left in the 1870s, the Radical Party shifted towards the centre throughout the course of the Third and Fourth Republics. Within the right, the radical tradition is a fervent supporter of key radical principles such as separation of church and state and secularism, but also humanism and internationalism. The right-wing radical tradition supports economic liberalism, but less passionately than the liberals. They are the most liberal on moral issues, and they are strong supporters of European federalism.

Bayrou’s CDS, transformed into the ‘FD’ in 1995, took the leadership of the UDF in 1998. His centralist tendencies within the new party and his desire to create a UDF more independent vis-a-vis the RPR led to split in 1998, following the regional elections. Several liberal UDF regional presidents were reelected with the support of the far-right, which Bayrou refused. This event triggered the division of the UDF between Bayrou’s independent and centrist New UDF, and the liberal centre-right known as Démocratie libérale (DL). Bayrou’s aim of pushing the UDF away from the RPR was met with the disapproval of certain factions of the UDF, which remained true to the ‘presidential majority’ and supported closer cooperation with the RPR. In 2002, a minority of the UDF endorsed Chirac’s reelection bid by the first round over Bayrou’s candidacy (which took 6.8%). For the DL, Alain Madelin, the party’s leader, also ran (and won 3.9%); but a majority of the DL caucus endorsed Chirac by the first round.

Chirac’s reelection in special circumstances (against the far-right) and the need for him to win a majority in the legislative elections led to the creation of the UMP. Following the UMP’s success in the June 2002 legislative elections, the UMP was created as a formal political party. The RPR and DL dissolved into the UMP, while a majority of the UDF joined the new party, leaving Bayrou with a rump of 30 or so deputies loyal to his independent centrist strategy.

The Right’s Leadership

Despite its ideological diversity, the French right lacks a tradition of institutionalized/organized ideological debate and has always been marked by the leadership of strong personalities, all quite fond of ‘democratic centralism’. This differentiates the right from the left (particularly the Socialist Party, PS) which has a long tradition of organized internal debate in party congresses (through the votes on ‘motions’) and a reputation for open factionalism and consistent leadership intrigues. The French right is naturally inclined to a strong leader and in turn reticent towards any institutionalized or organized internal factions or movements, fearing that they could lead to internal conflict and factionalism like within the PS.

The neo-Gaullist/ex-RPR family, predominant within the UMP at the expense of the centrists or liberals, have the strongest tradition of strong leadership. Charles de Gaulle did not tolerate dissent and had the remarkable ability to play his potential rivals off one another and checking their individual ambitions. He was the uncontested leader of his movement, and the Gaullist parties – the UNR and UDR – were notorious for being empty shells which served as his personal vehicles. UNR/UDR deputies, under de Gaulle, had little autonomy and many of them were merely loyal party stalwarts. In 1976, when Chirac seized control of the Gaullist movement and created the RPR, he sidelined the old guard and quickly built up the RPR as a formidable political machine and personal political vehicle. Until the challenges from the rénovateurs and Pasqua-Séguin in 1990, the RPR’s sole raison-d’être was to advance its leaders political career and lifelong goal (winning the presidency). Jacques Chirac tolerated little organized dissent and he was quite vindictive towards those who crossed his path, often excluding them from power while rewarding loyal allies. The best example is, of course, Chirac’s relations with Sarkozy after Sarkozy endorsed Balladur in 1995. Even if he did keep some balladuriens within his cabinet after 1995, Sarkozy himself was pushed out and forced into the political wilderness until 1999 (and, following the rout of the Sarkozy-Madelin list in the Euros that year, until 2002). Even if he was forced to place Sarkozy, popular with the electorate and within the UMP, into senior cabinet positions, Chirac always refused to name Sarkozy as Prime Minister (which is what Mitterrand, finer that Chirac when it came to personal political vendettas, would have done to sink a rival).

The UDF, until 1998, was a decentralized coalition of separate, independent parties (CDS, PR etc) and thus lacked the RPR’s political strength. Yet, the UDF was also marked by strong leaders, even they were not as dominant as Chirac within the RPR or were more prone to internal squabbles. Giscard and later François Léotard predominated the PR, while Bayrou slowly asserted his control of the CDS/FD/New UDF beginning in 1994. The rénovateurs experience was not unique to the RPR: the original team, composed of 12 young ‘rising stars’, included 6 members of the RPR and 6 members of the UDF. The UDF’s six members opposed Giscard and the old guard’s leadership of the party.

As a parti de notables (a party of elected officials rather than a mass party), however, the UDF’s strong leaders most often came in the form of local ‘barons’ (the name given in France to local/regional party bosses, both on the left and right) in departments or regions: Méhaignerie, Gaudin, Barrot, Barre, Monory or Millon. The UDR/RPR also had a strong network of local party bosses, from the earliest days of the Gaullist movement in the 1960s.

At its foundation, Jacques Chirac had envisioned the UMP to be subservient to his own political schemes. Chirac sought to place his longtime ally and protégé, Alain Juppé, as his heir apparent for 2007. Juppé was the first president of the UMP, elected in November 2002 at a party congress with 79.4% of the vote. However, Juppé was found guilty in a chiraquien corruption scandal in 2004 and he was declared ineligible for elected office for a year. This temporarily halted his political career and destroyed both his and Chirac’s plans for 2007. Sarkozy maneuvered to seize control of the UMP, similar to how Chirac had seized control of the UDR in 1976. Chirac was unable to stop Sarkozy’s takeover of ‘his’ party. Sarkozy was elected president of the UMP in November 2004, with 85.1%. Sarkozy quickly transformed Chirac’s party into Sarkozy’s party, with everything centered around the 2007 presidential election.

The UMP statutes allowed for the organization of ‘movements’, representing various ideological factions within the party, which would receive funding in proportion to the votes they received at the congresses. Fearing factionalism, these movements were never put in place.

Even if Sarkozy’s election to the presidency in 2007 vacated the presidency of the UMP for the duration of his term, Sarkozy remained the de facto leader of the UMP, running it from behind. He named the ‘secretary-general’ of the UMP to ensure  the official leadership of the party. In 2009 he named Xavier Bertrand, but Bertrand is not fit for the leadership of a party. In late 2010, he was replaced as secretary-general by Jean-François Copé, who had been the leader of the UMP caucus in the National Assembly.

The 2012 UMP Congress

Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat at the hands of now-President François Hollande on May 6, 2012 placed the UMP in a funny situation. After his defeat, Sarkozy bowed out of active politics – but he did not indicate that he intended to retire permanently from active public life in France. In doing so, he closed the 2007-2012 era in the UMP’s history, where he served as the party’s de facto leader despite being President of France. However, Sarkozy did not leave office reviled by his own party’s base. The UMP rank-and-file, by and large, remains fondly Sarkozyst. Furthermore, Sarkozy is still relatively young and given that French politicians rarely bow out entirely after one defeat, it is quite possible (though not a certainty) that he could seek to return in 2017.

The UMP needed to choose a new leader, while learning to live in opposition (for the first time in its history) and settling on a political and electoral strategy which could allow it to regain power by 2017. However, the UMP was quite keen on making clear that this congress would not double-up as an early presidential primary (the president elected at the congress would only serve until 2015). Pushed by the success of the PS’ open primaries in 2011, the UMP has signaled numerous times that they will organize an open primary in 2016 to choose its presidential candidate for 2017.

As I had noted right after the legislative elections, the UMP had two options to choose from in terms of political strategy. The French right must now live with a revitalized far-right (FN), stronger than ever and steaming full-steam ahead through clear waters following the presidential election; but at the same time some of the UMP’s troubles since Sarkozy’s ascent comes from its gradual loss of moderate and centrist voters. Therefore, the question is whether the UMP will seek power on a centre-right platform or if it will seek power on a more right-populist/droite décomplexée/Patrick Buisson type of platform, similar to that adopted by Sarkozy in his reelection campaign. The centre-right strategy aims at appealing to moderate centre-right voters which Jean-Louis Borloo now seeks to attract with his new independent centre-right confederation (the UDI); the right-populist strategy aims at reassembling Sarkozy’s 2007 coalition which included a fair number of old FN voters.

The UMP thus needed to choose a new leader and decide on its political future, while remaining – at least the party’s rank-and-file – very loyal to and fond of the ‘outgoing leader’ (Sarkozy), who may yet decide to return to electoral politics in 2017. The most ambitious UMP elites all praise Sarkozy’s presidency and seek to attach themselves to his legacy, but in reality most of them are quite happy that he is gone and they probably would not be too happy if he came back (because he would break their own presidential ambitions). As a result, very few leaders within the UMP dare to publicly signal their disapproval of Sarkozy’s term or their desire to move the party away from his legacy. Whether this is good or bad for the party is a matter of debate, Sarkozy left office rather unpopular with part of the electorate (but not with his own electorate) but French voters are notorious at falling in love with their ex-presidents once they have left office (but Sarkozy’s continuing legal problems and the judicial investigations surrounding old scandals will come back to haunt him). Furthermore, as President Hollande is already very unpopular (with disapprovals over 60%, especially with non-leftists) and his presidency is off to a ominously bad start, some voters might start to reminisce Sarkozy.

This congress was a decentralized congress, with no large partisan rally in a single location. Instead, each departmental federation organized and supervised the election of the president.

The vote was open to party members, those who had joined in 2012 before June 30, 2012 or those who had joined in 2011 and paid their updated membership fees up till election day. The party reported that 324,945 members were eligible to vote in the congress, or about 0.5% of the French population. The largest federation in terms of voters was Paris, which had 26,457 registered members. The Hauts-de-Seine had 17,919 registered members, the Alpes-Maritimes had 15,436 members and the Bouches-du-Rhône had 12,964 members. My friend, on his French blog Sondages 2012, put together a map showing the percentage of UMP members in each department (compared to the total population). The largest proportions are found in Paris’ affluent western suburbs (Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines) or the Mediterranean riviera. In good part, the UMP’s membership is made up of politicized right-leaning suburban professionals in the Parisian region on the one hand, and retirees or notoriously conservative small business owners and entrepreneurs (petite bourgeoisie) along the Mediterranean riviera.

Presidential candidates needed to gather support from at least 3% of UMP members (as of June 30) – or 7924 endorsements from members – coming from at least 10 departmental federations. Three prominent candidates (Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Bruno Le Maire and Henri Guaino tried and failed to gather these 7.9k signatures). Ultimately, only two candidates managed to run: Jean-François Copé and François Fillon.

Jean-François Copé, aged 48, was the incumbent party boss (secretary-general). Copé has been mayor of Meaux, a fairly low-income suburban town in the Seine-et-Marne, since 1995 and deputy for the Seine-et-Marne’s 6th constituency since 2002 (and between 1995 and 1997). Copé is a cunning, ambitious and crafty politician. He made his first steps in politics as a close young ally of Jacques Chirac, and gained a reputation as a chiraquien which allowed him to rapidly gain notoriety under Chirac’s second term (serving as the government’s spokesperson for five years and as junior minister). His relations with Sarkozy, however, were frosty at best. He never served in cabinet under Sarkozy, but he managed to gain the leadership of the UMP’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly. In 2010, Sarkozy named him to the party’s leadership, in return for his support in the 2012 presidential election – Copé’s very public presidential ambitions are for 2017.

Traditionally seen as a chiraquien liberal within the RPR, Copé had backed Patrick Devedjian’s candidacy for the presidency of the RPR in 1999 (Devedjian won 8.9%). During Sarkozy’s term, despite the frosty nature of the relations between the presidency and Copé, he publicly claimed to be a Sarkozyst. Freed by Sarkozy’s departure, the ambitious Copé eyes the 2017 election and has defined himself as the leader of the “droite décomplexée” (a right freed of its taboos and ‘leftist’ political correctness), and he has a straight-shooting and straight-talking political style.

François Fillon, aged 58, was Sarkozy’s Prime Minister for the duration of his five-year term and was elected as deputy for Paris’ 2nd constituency in June. Fillon’s political career, as a parliamentarian, began in 1981 when he succeeded his political mentor, Joël Le Theule, following his sudden death. Fillon’s original political base was the Sarthe – specifically the department’s fourth constituency and the city of Sablé-sur-Sarthe. He served as mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe between 1983 and 2008, and served in the department’s general council between 1981 and 1998, including six years as president of the general council between 1992 and 1998. In contrast to Copé who began his political ascension in the shadows of the RPR’s patriarch, Fillon was never a loyal chiraquien. He was a protégé of Philippe Séguin, the leader of the “social Gaullist” and eurosceptic faction of the RPR, which joined with Charles Pasqua to oppose Chirac’s leadership at the Bourget congress in 1990. That same year, Fillon, alongside other young politicians (Michel Noir, Alain Carignon, Michel Barnier, François Bayrou or Philippe de Villiers) was one of the twelve rénovateurs who opposed Chirac-Giscard’s leadership of the right. In 1992, Fillon opposed the ratification of the Maastricht treaty. In 1995, with Sarkozy, he backed Balladur over Chirac. Unlike Sarkozy, however, Fillon managed to save his seat in cabinet (thanks to Séguin’s backing).

Fillon ran for the presidency of the RPR in 1999, as the séguiniste/gaulliste social candidate. Placing third with 24.6% in the first round, he was eliminated from the runoff. Following this defeat, Fillon slowly mended bridges with Chirac and regained the President’s confidence. In 2002, he became minister of social affairs and spearheaded a controversial pension reform. However, Fillon found himself excluded from Dominique de Villepin’s new cabinet in 2005, which deeply angered him. He rushed towards Nicolas Sarkozy, the new president of the UMP, who had previously opposed. By 2007, he had become one of Sarkozy’s closest allies, and he was named Prime Minister. Staying in office for five years, he became one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers in a position which is usually politically fatal to its holder. However, relations between Sarkozy and Fillon soured during the course of Sarkozy’s term. Sarkozy centralized decision making and political leadership in his office, relegating Fillon to the lower position of a “collaborator”.

Leaving behind him his home turf in the Sarthe, Fillon sought and won a new seat in downtown Paris in June.

There are ideological differences between both candidates, but they should not be overstated. The major differences are in terms of personality and political style. The difference is indeed largely stylistic, between on the one hand Copé’s décomplexée populist rhetoric, which targets right-wing/far-right voters; and Fillon’s more consensual and centre-right rhetoric of rassemblement (rally) on the other hand. On issues such as immigration, the economy or labour laws both candidates have broadly similar political positions, their differences again are predominantly stylistic. Copé’s right-populism is bold and muscular – with rhetoric such as “anti-white racism” or the voyous (thugs) who steal the French kid’s pain au chocolat outside the school. In contrast, Fillon’s discourse was more measured.

Copé was boosted by his control of the party apparatus, and his tireless ambitious and political talent. However, Copé is a polarizing figure, widely disliked by left-wing voters and more moderate voters, who perceive him as being too right-wing, too liberal or too rash. Fillon’s advantage was his  stronger standing in political opinion and electability. Fillon remained fairly popular throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, largely because he was more in the background while the flamboyant Sarkozy stole the limelight (hence eroding his political capital). Moderate voters prefer him, they like his calm, measured and reserved personality, which is reassuring and moderate. However, Fillon doesn’t have Copé’s political drive. His image is more that of a “good family man”, calm and reserved, and he has not shown ambition or political skill similar to Copé.

Both candidates ran with two running-mates, forming a presidential ‘ticket’ with candidates for vice-president and secretary-general. Copé’s vice-presidential nominee was Luc Chatel, the former education minister and a liberal within the UMP. His candidacy for secretary-general was Michèle Tabarot, the mayor and deputy for Le Cannet in the crucial Alpes-Maritimes fed. Fillon’s vice-presidential nominee was Laurent Wauquiez, the former higher education minister and leader of the moderate ‘droite sociale‘ (social right) faction; his candidate for secretary-general was Valérie Pécresse, the former budget minister and a former chiraquienne.

Copé’s prominent supporters included leaders of the UMP’s right-wing faction including Lionnel Luca, Thierry Mariani, Éric Raoult or Guillaume Peltier; some leaders of the UMP’s centrist faction including former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (for reasons largely related to a long-standing spat with Fillon), Marc-Philippe Daubresse, Marc Laffineur or liberal standard-bearer Hervé Novelli; his inner circle including Christian Jacob (the UMP’s parliamentary leader), Roger Karoutchi and Franck Riester; local barons including Jean-Claude Gaudin (mayor of Marseille, along with other bigwigs from the local UMP including  Bernard Deflesselles, Dominique Tian or Renaud Muselier); Valérie Rosso-Debord and Nadine Morano, the party’s top two media-savvy ‘attack dogs'; or again Sarkozysts such as Patrick Balkany (one of the leaders of the Sarkozyst clan in the Hauts-de-Seine’s fractious right-wing politics), Rachida Dati, Brice Hortefeux or even Jean Sarkozy (Sarkozy’s politically ambitious son).

Fillon’s prominent supporters some other members of the UMP’s centrist faction including Gérard Longuet, Jean Leonetti (leader of the anti-borlooiste wing of the PRV),  Pierre Méhaignerie or the party’s Senate leader Gérard Larcher; local barons including – most crucially – the boss of the Alpes-Maritimes fed, Christian Estrosi (mayor of Nice) and his close ally Éric Ciotti, the mayor of Toulon Hubert Falco or Dominique Bussereau; the surprise support of former chiraquiens such as Valérie Pécresse, Patrick Ollier or even François Baroin (the latter especially thought to be more pro-Copé); the late endorsement of Xavier Bertrand (though largely because he hates Copé) or the juppéiste Benoist Apparu; some members of the party’s right including Claude Guéant (though largely for reasons related to the 92 right’s clan politics), Valérie Boyer or Jacques Myard; or the ‘rebel’ Patrick Devedjian, the main rival of the Sarkozy-Balkany clan in the Hauts-de-Seine (92).

At the same time, UMP members were also called to vote on “declarations of principles” (often called ‘motions’ by the media, like in the PS) which would organize movements. ‘Declarations of principles’ needed to gain the support of at least ten parliamentarians from ten departments in order to be put on the ballot, those motions who got over 10% of the votes at the congress would become recognized ‘movements’ and be eligible for funding. Six motions were placed on the ballot: France moderne et humaniste (Modern and humanist France), La Boîte à idées, la motion anti divisions ! (The ‘box of ideas’ – the anti-division motion), La Droite forte – Génération France Forte 2017 (Strong Right), La Droite populaire (Popular Right), La Droite sociale (Social Right) and Le Gaullisme, une voie d’avenir pour la France (Gaullism – a way forward for France).

The France moderne et humaniste was a centrist and liberal motion signed, notably, by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Luc Chatel, Hervé Novelli, Jean Leonetti and Marc Laffineur. The motion’s aim was to create a sort of UDF faction within the UMP, representing the various political families of the old UDF including the liberals and the Christian democrats (though much more of the former). Despite its centrist platform, the motion was dominated by the copéistes - Raffarin, Chatel, Novelli, Laffineur but also Daubresse, Tabarot, Riester, Claude Goasguen and Sébastien Huyghe. This motion received the most endorsements from UMP parliamentarians.

The Boîte à idées was a fairly vague motion led by, among others, Benoist Apparu, Chantal Jouanno, Bruno Le Maire or Hervé Gaymard and endorsed by Xavier Bertrand and Alain Juppé. The motion did not appear to have any clear-cut ideological direction, though most of its leaders are moderates. Instead, it placed emphasis on internal democracy and debates.

The Droite forte motion was spearheaded by two thirty-something rising stars – Guillaume Peltier, a former young frontiste and a villieriste (MPF) until he joined the UMP in 2009 (because that’s where you go when you’re really ambitious) and Geoffroy Didier, a young UMP regional councillor who had defined himself as a ‘left-wing Sarkozyst’. The Droite forte defined itself as the ‘Sarkozyst’ motion, and as a more socially acceptable and tamer version of the very right-wing Droite pop. Its proposals included getting the public media to hire “right-wing journalists”, cutting legal immigration by half, restoring the 40-hour workweek, constitutional recognition of France as a secular country with ‘Christian tradition’ or the old vague idea of European protectionism. The motion was backed by Sarkozysts including Bernard Accoyer, Brice Hortefeux, Édouard Courtial, Pierre Charon and Jean Sarkozy; and it was largely copéiste.

The Droite populaire was organized as a parliamentary caucus within the UMP in 2010, representing the most right-wing, populist and nationalist faction of the UMP (often accused by the left of being FN lite). The Droite pop was the most well known (and also controversial) of all the main UMP factions, but it lost a good number of its members in the June legislative elections and it was weakened by the creation of the Droite forte, which, again, has that novel ‘young’ and slightly less tainted twist to it. The Droite pop’s leaders include Thierry Mariani and Lionnel Luca, two copéiste.

The Droite sociale is also an older faction, led by Laurent Wauquiez, a former cabinet minister and the new right-wing baron in the small Haute-Loire department. Wauquiez has built his faction and his political ambitions on the ‘defense of middle-classes’ and ‘la lutte contre l’assistanat‘ (basically a right-wing catchphrase which is roughly translated to ‘fighting welfare dependency’). Thought the ‘anti-welfare’ rhetoric might associate it with the party’s right, Wauquiez’s faction is often defined as being one of the party’s moderate factions, following in the tradition of social Gaullism and Christian democracy. The motion emerged as a catch-all filloniste motion, led by Wauquiez (who holds presidential ambitions for 2017 and is a talented young politician who can go places) and backed by a lot of fillonistes, including more right-wing members backing Fillon such as Brigitte Barèges or Valérie Boyer.

The Gaullist motion is led by Michèle Alliot-Marie (MAM), Henri Guaino, Roger Karoutchi and Patrick Ollier (MAM’s husband). Alliot-Marie and Ollier are former chiraquiens (despite MAM’s 1999 candidacy as the non-aligned anti-Chirac candidate), while Guaino and Karoutchi – who both backed Copé – are both former séguinistes. 

Polling these type of internal party primaries is notoriously difficult, because of the limited size of the electorate. However, polling – which targeted all UMP “sympathizers” rather than only UMP “members” (which would be very difficult for any pollster to accurately poll) – consistently showed Fillon with a large lead over Copé, most often over 20 points with polling averages most often over 60%. Every one knew that they needed to take these polls with a truckload of salt, but nobody expected what came on November 18.

The Civil War

Turnout was reported to be about 54% of the party’s 324,945 members – roughly 176.6k voters participated. On November 18, both the Copé and Fillon campaigns claimed victory and both candidates later proclaimed that they had won, the Copé camp claimed a 1000 vote edge while Fillon’s supporters claimed a narrow 224-vote margin. Throughout the evening, both sides exchanged accusations of fraud and vote rigging.

The next day, late in the evening of November 19, the UMP’s internal commission in charge of organizing the vote (the Commission d’organisation et de contrôle des opérations électorales or COCOE) declared Copé the winner by 98 votes:

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.03% (87,388 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (87,290 votes)

Copé +98 votes

A glacial Fillon recognized his defeat and conceded victory to Copé, even if he denounced irregularities in the election and talked of a ‘political and moral fracture’ within the party. The next day, Copé offered Fillon the party’s vice-presidency, an offer which Fillon immediately refused. However, Fillon urged his supporters to recognize his defeat and move forward with grudges to maintain the party’s unity. He did not close doors on a presidential candidacy in 2016-2017, but most assumed, on November 20, that the kerfuffle had been resolved and that Copé was accepted as the legitimate winner by the whole of the party.

The situation took an explosive turn on November 21, when the fillonistes took the offensive and proclaimed that they had won. Their claim was that the COCOE had “forgotten” to include 1,304 votes cast in three overseas federations (New Caledonia, Fillon won 643-535; Mayotte, Fillon won 68-41 and Wallis-et-Futuna, Copé won 14-3) in their official results. Their numbers, with the three federations included had Fillon as the winner by 26 votes.

François Fillon (UMP) 50.01% (88,004 votes)
Jean-François Copé (UMP) 49.99% (87,978 votes)

Fillon +26 votes

At the same time, however, Fillon announced that he was renouncing the presidency of the UMP but calling on the ‘truth’ to be established. He called on Alain Juppé, a non-aligned party founder, to become the interim leader of the party and negotiate a way out of the crisis with the Copé faction. On his side, Copé dared Fillon to bring the case to an internal party commission in charge of hearing complaints (commission nationale des recours, known officially as CNR or commonly as CONARE – which sounds like the French word for ‘idiot’ or ‘moron’ or even worse…) and noted that they would need to re-examine all results, including contested results in Nice where the Copé faction accused the Fillon faction of fraud.

But the next day (November 22), seeking to regain the initiative, Copé announced that he would be going to the CNR, alleging fraud by the Fillonistes in Nice and New Caledonia. At the same time, however, he accepted the idea of a Juppé-led mediation in the conflict. However, Fillon’s faction rejected the legitimacy of the CNR, which they deemed to be controlled by the copéistes (indeed, the president of the CNR, Yannick Paternotte, endorsed Copé) while the copéistes insisted that Juppé associate his work to that of the CNR, which they deemed the sole body with the power to handle such issues. Copé’s response thus meant that Juppé would not be able to mediate the dispute. On November 25, Juppé announced that he was giving up while the CNR began its meetings, in the absence of the Fillon camp whose leader announced that he would be taking the matter to court to “reestablish the truth”.

On November 26, Sarkozy intervened in the matter, discretely meeting with Fillon. From the lunch between the former President and his old Prime Minister it was revealed that Sarkozy would not be against the organization of another election, which henceforth became a major issue in the crisis.

The same day, the CNR announced its own, revised, results of the November 18 vote. The CNR invalidated the election in New Caledonia, which they deemed was marred by irregularities in the process which affected the fairness of the vote; they also invalidated some polling stations in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), where the Copé faction had accused their opponents of fraud. As a result, Copé was proclaimed the winner – again – but with a 952 vote majority.

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.28% (86,911 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (85,959 votes)

Copé +952 votes

Party congresses in France, both within the UMP this year and within the PS (in 2008, at the Reims Congress), are prone to manipulation and fraud. The votes are organized by departmental federations, and these federations are often led by powerful local parliamentarians or local barons who endorse a particular candidate. For example, the Alpes-Maritimes fed is led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice and one of Fillon’s most prominent backers. The Bouches-du-Rhône fed on the other hand is led by Jean-Claude Gaudin, one of Copé’s biggest backers.

As the leader of their own federations, these local party bosses are often able to organize the vote as to benefit their chosen candidate and often provide their chosen candidate with the backing of their departmental federation. Some kind of manipulation, fraud or even intimidation or vote rigging is prevalent within both the UMP and PS, and it is silently accepted by the national party leaders who could not do without the backing of these powerful party bosses and their big federations.

But when, as was the case for the PS in Reims in 2008, the vote ends up extremely close, then both sides accuse one another of having ‘stolen’ the election. In the 2008 PS vote for first-secretary between Aubry and Royal, it is quite clear that there was flagrant fraud and rigging on both sides: manipulation and fraud organized by local boss Jean-Noël Guérini allowed Royal to win 72.5% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, while similar irregularities in Aubry’s native department (Nord) allowed her to win 76% of the vote there.

If anything, the UMP’s vote this year seems a bit cleaner than the Reims Congress, if judging by the disparities in the results from one neighboring department to another. However, there were irregularities on the UMP vote on November 18 and both sides are guilty. The Copé faction and the CNR might have had a point about Nice, where Estrosi and Ciotti controlled the organization of the votes and probably organized it in a fairly unholy way which favoured their candidate. But the Copé faction is also guilty of irregularities, as the fillonistes allege. The wide use of ‘proxy votes’ (vote par procuration) in some departments was muddy and likely stacked in Copé’s favour, the Fillon faction claimed that Copé had rigged the vote with over 30,000 proxy votes. Furthermore, I’m certain that looking through the results in some of those departments where the Copé faction controlled the vote would also reveal interesting thing.

The CNR, in proclaiming Copé the winner by 952 votes after invalidating the results in three places where Fillon had won (even if not fair-and-square in some cases), lost all legitimacy. You can’t pick-and-choose cases of fraud in such a way. It is clear, again, that there was fraud on both sides, but if you’re going to start quashing results for fraud, then you can’t stop with two polling stations in Nice. However, the CNR was presided by a man who had attended Copé’s campaign announcement in August and it had no filloniste representatives present when it took a decision.

Things became crazy on November 27. In the morning, Fillon and Copé met – apparently at Sarkozy’s insistence – and both sides discussed the organization of a “referendum” where UMP members would be asked if they wanted to vote again. The same day, Fillon announced that he would be creating his own parliamentary group in the National Assembly. A parliamentary group in the National Assembly holds seats in the parliamentary commission and the rules of the legislature give it certain advantages, notably an allocated time for questions and interventions. The UMP parliamentary group is controlled by the Copé faction – led by Christian Jacob, another Seine-et-Marne deputy and one of Copé’s closest allies. Fillon hence created his own group, the Rassemblement-UMP (R-UMP or RUMP) – the same name as the local section of the UMP in New Caledonia, and took 68 of the UMP group’s 196 members.

The creation of the R-UMP complicated the situation and killed the debate on the ‘referendum’ option. Fillon accepted a referendum if Copé stood down and the party was led by an independent interim leadership until the new election, an unpalatable option for the copéistes because it would be a tacit recognition that Copé lacked the legitimacy to remain as the party’s leader. Copé’s faction agreed to a referendum but they set an ultimatum to Fillon: withdraw your group before 3pm on November 28 or there is no referendum. The ultimatum expired, Fillon maintained the R-UMP and the copéistes announced that they would be ending negotiations.

The same day, a group of “non-aligned” UMP deputies led by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire launched a petition which called on the dissolution of the R-UMP as per Copé’s ultimatum but also the creation of some kind of Comité des Sages (wise men/elders committee) at the UMP to organize the referendum before January 31, 2013. 72 parliamentarians signed the non-aligned petition, but 27 of them were copéistes (judging that the status-quo favours Copé) and 12 of them were fillonistes, including 3 who had actually joined the R-UMP! (two of those three signatories later unsigned, apparently, because their names no longer appear on the petition). On November 29, everybody and their grandmother in the UMP seemed interested in setting up a commission to organize a vote, an election, a referendum or something: a working group, an independent commission, a commission of elders and so forth. Sarkozy re-intervened  meeting both rivals and demanding that they come to an agreement before December 4.

Both candidates signaled that they favoured the organization of a new vote, but the Copé faction said that a new vote would not be held until after the 2014 municipal elections while the Fillon faction demanded a new vote as rapidly as possible. Today, the crisis remains unresolved and blocked. Both factions are sticking to their guns. Fillon still threatens to take the matter to court, but it is unclear how the courts would rule on an internal partisan matter and how the lengthy judicial process would affect the party’s situation.

The UMP is stuck in a weird and confusing situation as things currently stands. It remains united as a political party, but only half or so of the party recognizes the party’s de facto leader as the legitimate leader. The other half of the party remains in the party, but still does not recognize the legitimacy of the party’s de facto leader. What is the way forward?

Many will ask why the fillonistes, who already have their own caucus in the lower house, don’t just pack their bags and create their own party. The creation of a new political party is a tricky matter in France because of public financing (state funding of political parties) laws. This public funding is based on two ‘fractions’. The first fraction is given to parties who have obtained over 1% in at least 50 constituencies (the law is less rigid for purely overseas parties, they need 1% in all constituencies they ran in). Candidates choose to affiliate with a particular party or funding entity (not necessarily their own political party!) for the first fraction, and parties meeting these conditions receive €1.68 per vote. In 2012, the UMP received about 11-12 million euros, but they also received a 5 million euro penalty for not respecting gender parity laws which means they will receive about 7 million euros from the first fraction. For the second fraction, parliamentarians affiliate themselves with one of the parties/funding structures eligible under the first fraction, who then receive about €42,000 by parliamentarian.

This law makes it difficult for new parties keen to receive public funding to be created. Fillon’s hypothetical party cannot receive funding under the first fraction, but there is an ingenious and commonly-used way around the second fraction. Parliamentarians can affiliate with another party, most often an overseas party, which then transfers the entirety of its public funding to the new party. The New Centre (NC) deputies and senators used this method in 2007, when they had not been eligible for funding under the first fraction. They affiliated with a friendly party in French Polynesia, Fetia Api, which received funding equivalent to the size of the NC’s caucus and then gave it back to the NC.

The name of the R-UMP is perhaps not a random coincidence. If they chose to do so, Fillon’s parliamentarians could affiliate themselves to the New Caledonian section of the UMP, also named the R-UMP, and receive their public funding through the intermediary of that party (which is eligible for funding under the first fraction. However, the second fraction affiliations were due on November 30. As this article explains, only one of the R-UMP deputies (Jean-Pierre Decool, who is only divers droite and not officially UMP) did not affiliate with the UMP under the second fraction. The UMP will thus receive its 20 million euros from the state, crucial for a party deep in debt.

Fillon did not seem willing to signal that he was breaking all bridges with his party. But, in the long-term, the option remains on the table. These affiliations are only valid for a year, so by next year, if nothing has changed, Fillon still has the option of going forward with a split.

It is hard to envision either side changing their positions as things currently stand. Short of a party split, which would be a major thing, one of the only realistic option is that both sides agree to disagree, and find some kind of temporary arrangement whereby Copé can retain the presidency but Fillon saves face by remaining in a prominent position. A solution which would probably last until after the 2014 local elections or the potential 2016 presidential primary. Fillon is in a more difficult position, because Copé retains control of the apparatus and as such he has wider access to the medias in his role as the leader of the main opposition party. The current status-quo favours Copé, and Fillon risks losing the initiative (if he has not lost it already) in the situation and could slowly see the crisis fade away (as is already slowly the case), which would weaken his standing.

Will the UMP’s crisis benefit other parties? Observers have said that the main winners of the crisis are the PS (and the government), Borloo’s new centrist confederation (the UDI) and Marine Le Pen’s FN. Both the UDI and FN have claimed that their membership numbers have increased a lot because of the UMP crisis, though there is always a big difference between what parties say about their membership numbers and the actual reality.

As a sort of indicator, three legislative by-elections were held on November 9 – one of them in the Hérault where the PS had defeated a UMP incumbent (pro-Copé) in June by only 10 votes in a triangulaire with the FN; another in the Hauts-de-Seine where Patrick Devedjian (UMP pro-Fillon) had narrowly defeated a left-wing candidate in the runoff. The results do not seem to indicate that either the PS or the FN benefited from the UMP crisis. In the Hérault, the former UMP deputy is far ahead with 42.6% against 27.7% for the PS incumbent, while the FN – which had been in a position to benefit from the UMP crisis and the unpopularity of the government – fell flat on its face, winning 23.4%, barely up since June. In the Hauts-de-Seine, where the PS and Greens united behind a single candidate (in June, they had been divided in the first round, hurting them in the runoff) and had hoped of toppling Devedjian, they won only 32.5% (when their two candidates had won over 40% in June by the first round) against a big 49.82% for him. In the Val-de-Marne, the runoff will oppose the UDI/UMP incumbent and a UMP dissident with the PS eliminated by the first round (only 19%). Turnout was low, making it hard to draw conclusions, but the left appeared demobilized while the right was more successful in mobilizing its voters. Neither the FN nor the FG were able to profit from the political situation, which should – one assumes – benefit them.

Internal Geography of the UMP

After all, one of this blog’s purpose is to look at the geographic structure of the vote in elections. Given the crisis which ensued, the geographic analysis of both the presidential vote and the motions vote was largely forgotten. Yet it does reveal many interesting things about the “internal geography” of the UMP and the mindset of its members.

The map of the presidential results below  is based on the work of two journalists who compiled national results based on unofficial public sources (including local UMP federations, UMP parliamentarians or the local print media), available here, and the COCOE results. None of the colours or the shades on the map, however, would change if I used solely the COCOE or even the CNR’s official results. However, at a national level, it is interesting to point out that the compilation of results from local sources (including the 3 ‘forgotten’ overseas feds) has Fillon ahead by 248 votes. And indeed, the COCOE’s first results (Copé +98) ‘forgot’ the three overseas feds (1,304 votes total) and their inclusion does indeed bring Fillon ahead by 26 votes.

UMP P2012

Many had tried to summarize the Fillon/Copé battle to a straight fight between the UMP’s moderate wing (Fillon) and the UMP’s right-wing (Copé). There is some truth to this, but again the actual ideological differences between both candidates were fairly sparse and both candidates attracted prominent endorsements from the ‘opposite side’ of the party (some of the UMP’s right for Fillon, a good number of UMP moderates and ex-UDF/DL for Copé). The map confirms that the battle was not purely a moderate vs right-wingers affair.

The internal geography of political parties in France, at least the UMP and the PS, has long been structured by the “favourite son”/”friends and neighbors” effect and the influence of local barons – rather than any sociological or demographic factors. This election was no different, but unlike with the PS, the support of local barons cannot explain the entire map. They can still explain a good deal of it, however.

Both candidates did best in their home turf, their political bases (even if Fillon has now ‘abandoned’ his original political turf in the Sarthe). Fillon won 81.9% in the Sarthe and Copé won 78.4% in the Seine-et-Marne. Fillon also won Paris, his adopted political base since June, with a far more modest (but still hefty) 58.5%. To a certain extent, Fillon’s old favourite son appeal in the Sarthe might have carried over to neighboring departments: he won 69.7% in the Orne and 62.4% in the Mayenne.

The impact of ‘local barons’ was quite important to both candidates in a number of departments. The Alpes-Maritimes, one of the biggest UMP feds and one of the most disputed federations on November 18, gave Fillon about 59.9% (including the polls invalidated by the CNR). Even though Copé’s second running-mate, Michèle Tabarot, is the departmental secretary of the federation; the department’s federation is largely dominated and led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, and his sidekick Eric Ciotti (both of whom, of course, were part of Fillon’s inner circle during the campaign). Fillon was also endorsed by all but two (Tabarot and Lionnel Luca) of the department’s parliamentarians. In the Haute-Loire, Laurent Wauquiez’s support and presence of the Fillon ticket allowed Fillon to win 65.6%. In the Yvelines, Valérie Pécresse’s federation, Fillon won decisively with 59.3%. In the Aube, François Baroin’s backing certainly helped Fillon to win 63.9% in the department. Xavier Bertrand likely swung the Aisne (54.6%) and might even have had an impact in the Somme and the Ardennes.

For Copé, Luc Chatel brought the Haute-Marne to the fold, with 62.9% for Copé. In the big Bouches-du-Rhône federation, led by Gaudin and dominated by the copéistes, Copé won 62.1%. In the Vienne, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s native department, Copé won 61.2%. It is likely that Raffarin’s regional influence also swung the Charente (61.6%), the Deux-Sèvres (52.9%) but also the Charente-Maritime (57%) where the UMP barons split between Copé (Didier Quentin) and Fillon (Dominique Bussereau). In the Oise, Olivier Dassault/Edouard Courtial (pro-Copé) prevailed over Eric Woerth and Caroline Cayeux (pro-Fillon), giving Copé 57.8% in the department. In the Nord, Marc-Philippe Daubresse’s support certainly played a major role in Copé’s victory, with 53.2%.

Other departmental results can also be explained by the backing of the local party establishment. In Brittany, for example, Copé carried only the Côtes-d’Armor, where he was endorsed by local bigwig Marc Le Fur. In Ille-et-Vilaine and Loire-Atlantique, where Fillon had the backing of all local parliamentarians, Fillon won over 55% of the vote. In the Finistère and Morbihan, ‘neutral’ federations held by neither candidate, the vote was closer (52.7% and 50.9% for Fillon respectively). The Meuse, where Fillon took 57.1%, is the home turf of Gérard Longuet, one of Fillon’s backers. In the Marne, Benoist Apparu’s supported boosted Fillon to a narrow win with 51.5%.

The Hauts-de-Seine was disputed between the pro-Fillon clan (led by Devedjian, Ollier, Guéant) and the old Sarkozyst-Balkany clan which backed Copé (Balkany, Jean Sarkozy, Solère, Karoutchi). The former prevailed, with 54.9%. In Paris, Fillon’s adopted political base since June, the former Prime Minister benefited from a strong base of support with the local establishment (Goujon, Lamour, Lellouche) and a weaker local pro-Copé bench (Dati, Charon, Goasguen).

However, local barons cannot explain everything. The Lozère, where local deputy Pierre Morel-à-L’Huissier endorsed Copé, Fillon was victorious with 51.1%. In the Var, the backing of all but three of the department’s 11 parliamentarians including Toulon mayor Hubert Falco was not enough for Fillon: Copé was victorious with 51.5%. In the Manche, both deputies endorsed Copé but Fillon won by a hair (51%). In the Bas-Rhin, 8 of the department’s 10 parliamentarians including André Reichardt (plus regional president Philippe Richert) backed Fillon, but Copé won narrowly with 50.5%; on the other hand, Fillon won 60.1% down the road in the Haut-Rhin.

Generally, local barons prevailed over local sociological/demographic considerations. However, some sociological lessons can be drawn from the map. Copé did very well on the Mediterranean coast, besides the Estrosian Alpes-Maritimes, with over 60% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Vaucluse or the Aude and nearly 60% in the Hérault (plus a surprise win despite local barons in the Var). This region, where the UMP draws the bulk of its support from ‘heliotropic’ coastal retirees, small business owners, the petite bourgeoisie or conservative entrepreneurs, is also one of the FN’s original bases since the 1980 (and it is a region where the FN’s electorate is fundamentally right-wing rather than apolitical/protest-driven) and it is a region where immigration is a major issue. The UMP base in this region, demographically and ideologically, is naturally inclined to Copé’s tough right-populist/résistance/décomplexée rhetoric over Fillon’s more moderate and reserved style.

On the other hand, in Paris’ western suburbs – affluent, white-collar, professional and politically moderate – Fillon’s victory owes in part to this favourable demographic makeup (as well as establishment backing). On the other hand, in the Seine-Saint-Denis or the Val-de-Marne, where the UMP’s membership base is likely more concerned by issues such as immigration or public safety, Copé played well: 54.8% in the Seine-Saint-Denis (where the UMP establishment is also very rightist), about 52% in the Val-de-Marne and the Val-d’Oise. Copé’s victory in the Oise but also the Yonne, Eure-et-Loir and Eure also owes a bit to local sociology: in these more distant and less affluent outer exurban conservative regions, the local UMP membership is probably naturally inclined to Copé’s muscular right-populist message (the backing of Orléans mayor Serge Grouard for Fillon explains the Loiret).

In the inner west (Pays-de-la-Loire, Orne, Manche) and Brittany, the region’s historically moderate and Christian democratic political bent likely explains – at least in part (most of the local establishments, except for Laffineur in the Maine-et-Loire backed Fillon) – why Fillon did well. In the southern Massif Central, centered around Wauquiez’s Haute-Loire and Marleix’s Cantal, also has a similar Catholic/centrist political history, and might explain – in part – why Fillon did well (including a surprising win in the Lozère). In the Savoie, local establishment support (Dord, Gaymard, Accoyer) for Fillon added to a favourable sociology: affluent and more politically moderate retirees, ski bunnies or suburbanites.

One surprise was the solidly left-wing Southwest, where Copé did very well: over 60% in the Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot and over 55% in the Gironde or the Aveyron. The UMP’s local establishment in these departments is generally quite weak, and the UMP was in good part decimated there in June. The only exceptions to the rule are the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (historically Catholic and centrist), Ariège, the Tarn-et-Garonne (Brigitte Barèges, mayor of Montauban, was backing Fillon) and the Dordogne. In his article on the geography of the presidential vote, my friend over at Sondages2012 mentions a few interesting factors: Fillon did not campaign much in the region; the local right-wing electorate, a minority in a sea of red, perhaps being more aggressive (hence pro-Copé) because they are keen on resisting the left. To these interesting hypothesis, I might add another one: the right-wing electorate, and probably UMP membership, in these secular and small-town departments, draws heavily from small business owners/petite bourgeoisie and is, in some aspects, fairly exurban and lower middle-class (in the Garonne valley) – demographic realities favourable to Copé.

The Lorraine was fairly interesting, especially with Fillon’s huge win in the Vosges (65.1%) and Moselle (60.8%). This is a region where the FN is strong, and where the FN’s electorate is also fairly structurally right-wing/conservative rather than apolitical. It is true that the local establishment, outside of the copéiste Meurthe-et-Moselle (Morano, Rosso-Debord), largely backed Fillon. This is also a historically social Gaullist/séguiniste region where the 1999 ‘social Gaullist’ Fillon had done very well (45% in Séguin’s Vosges, wins in Haute-Marne – the General’s historical turf with Colombey, Moselle and a tie in the Meuse); some of Fillon’s 1999 social Gaullist/rénovateur (Isère, Rhône) support evaporated this year, but he seems to have retained the séguiniste/Gaullist base in Lorraine, with the exception of the Haute-Marne where Luc Chatel swung the department heavily to Copé.

The R-UMP Caucus

The R-UMP group in the National Assembly now includes 73 members. The map below shows the current composition of the National Assembly by parliamentary group:

Groupes AN

 

The R-UMP rallied the majority of the filloniste deputies within the UMP caucus in the lower house. Prior to November 18, Le Monde‘s investigation with UMP parliamentarians had revealed that 155 of the 194 UMP deputies had taken position in the presidential race and 83 of them had backed Fillon (against 73 for Copé). UMP Senators were far more filloniste, the UMP’s senate group did not split and it is led and dominated by fillonistes.

It is interesting to quickly point out those filloniste UMP deputies who did not join the R-UMP group, led by Fillon himself. They include Xavier Bertrand, Benoist Apparu, Bernard Accoyer, David Douillet, Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard. Bertrand, Apparu, Accoyer and Douillet could be called ‘soft’ fillonistes, they only endorsed Fillon fairly late in the campaign and were less connected to the Fillon team than, say, Estrosi/Ciotti but also Baroin. Bertrand probably backed Fillon only because of his deep personal enimity with Copé, rather than any personal connections with Fillon. The juppéiste Benoist Apparu was also a late endorser. Accoyer, the former president of the National Assembly, was very reticent to the idea of forming a dissident parliamentary group, probably because a loyal party man and old Sarkozyst, he is attached to the unity of the UMP. Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard are two members of the UMP’s right-wing who endorsed Fillon, it would seem that Fillon’s weak support with the right-wingers of the party was also pretty soft. Guy Teissier and Valérie Boyer, two marseillais deputies who joined the R-UMP after its initial creation are both seen as being on the party’s right, though perhaps their membership in the R-UMP as more to do with their personal enmity with the city’s copéiste patriarch, mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin (Boyer is a potential mayoral candidate). Naturally, the UMP’s non-aligned members stayed with the UMP group led by Jacob.

The filloniste inner guard – Pécresse, Wauquiez, Chartier, Baroin but also Estrosi/Ciotti who despite their reputation as Sarkozysts on the right of the party have become very closely tied to the filloniste faction. The Estrosian bench of UMP deputies in the Alpes-Maritimes (all but Luca and Tabarot) joined the R-UMP, as did all Fillon supporters in the Var, Paris or Hauts-de-Seine (Devedjian, after his victory next week, will certainly join the R-UMP too).

Prominent members of the R-UMP caucus include, in addition to the aforementioned names: Dominique Bussereau, Bernard Debré, Dominique Dord, Hervé Gaymard, Philippe Goujon, Serge Grouard, Jean-François Lamour, Pierre Lellouche, Jean Leonetti, Alain Marleix, Patrick Ollier, Camille de Rocca Serra, Lionel Tardy and Éric Woerth.

 

The Motions Vote: a Sarkozyst party

The motions vote did not interest many people during the Fillon/Copé campaign, and they were forgotten in the aftermath because of the crisis. But they too provide interesting numbers and lessons about the UMP’s 2012 membership base.

Members had the option of not choosing any motion, but only 4% or so of voters did not choose a motion (but altogether, 11% of members either chose a blank ballot choosing no motions or cast an invalid/blank vote). The results were as follows, on the 89% of valid votes:

Droite forte 27.77%
Droite sociale 21.69%
France moderne et humaniste 18.17%
Gaullisme 12.31%
Droite populaire 10.87%
Boîte à idées 9.19%

UMP M2012

The big winner of the motions vote was Guillaume Peltier and Geoffroy Didier’s La Droite forte motion, which won 27.8% of the motions vote. This is a remarkable victory for a young motion led by two thirty-something aspiring politicians who do not hold any major elective office and whose motion was backed by only a select few prominent UMP parliamentarians or national leaders. Their victory and success is the product of a well-orchestrated campaign which seized on the strong appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ and Sarkozy’s legacy with the UMP’s base. To compensate for their weak establishment support, the motion’s leaders ran a media-savvy campaign with controversial proposals prone to receive attention and a large number of public meetings throughout the campaign.

The motion, although led by copéistes, had a fairly homogeneously appeal which transcended the Fillon/Copé battle. While the motion performed slightly better in those departments where Copé did best (30%), it also did almost just as well in those departments where Fillon won (25.5%). It was the only motion which managed to get over 10% of the vote in every single department. 37 of the departments it won went for Copé, and 23 went for Fillon.

The Droite forte did best in departments which were not ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions. Peltier did have a friends and neighbors effect in the Indre-et-Loire (44.9%) which might have spilled over to the Loir-et-Cher (36.5%); but otherwise their map is remarkable by the weak incidence of any friends and neighbors/favourite son effect on its support. Along the Mediterranean coast, again, the very right-wing and Sarkozyst nature of the motion appealed to a UMP electorate made up of retirees, conservative small business owners and the petite bourgeoisie; a region where Sarkozy had done particularly well for a right-wing candidate in both 2007 and 2012. The Droite forte got 50.4% in the Aude, 41.8% in the Gard, 37.5% in the Hérault and 31.9% in the big Bouches-du-Rhône fed. Like Copé, it also did well in the left-wing southwest, where the UMP’s base is demographically similar. In both regions, the Droite forte short circuited the Droite pop.

Slightly more surprising is the motion’s appeal in Mayenne (39%), Manche (36.7%) but also parts of Brittany; all in departments which Fillon carried over Copé and where the right has historically had a moderate and centrist reputation. None of these departments are ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions, which appears, again, to be one of the commonalities between all the departments where it did well.

Laurent Wauquiez’s Droite sociale, with 21.7%, was the other good performer. In contrast to the Droite forte, however, the motion’s success was far more localized. It did best in Wauquiez’s home turf, the Haute-Loire (66.2%), where his native son appealed carried over to other departments in the Auvergne – notably the Cantal (44.5%) but also the Allier (37%), the Puy-de-Dôme (34%) but also some neighboring departments outside the region: the Ardèche (55.6%) or the Creuse (43.8%). In internal party votes where ideological differences are present but fairly sparse compared to normal elections, a local leader’s friends and neighbors appeal is very important – not only in his/her native region, but also in neighboring departments. Given the reduced electorate, the proximity of a candidate or a candidate’s strong local implantation is a major factor.

The Droite sociale‘s ranks were heavily dominated by the fillonistes with barely any copéiste parliamentarians backing the motion. Unsurprisingly, the motion did markedly better in departments carried by Fillon (32% in those departments where Fillon took over 60%; 13.7% in those departments where Copé took over 60%). This heavily filloniste appeal is visible in the inner west, where the motion also did very well. It won 34.5% in Fillon’s native Sarthe, 35.8% in the Vendée, 32.5% in the Ille-et-Vilaine and 29.2% in the Loire-Atlantique. It also did rather well in the Moselle (33%), Vosges (29.9%) and the Indre (33.6%) – all three departments where Fillon did very well in the presidential vote. The motion’s vote, with some exceptions, follows the traditional implantation of the Christian democratic and centrist tradition fairly well.

More disappointing for its leader, however, was the performance of Raffarin/Chatel/Leonetti/Daubresse’s France moderne et humaniste (FMH) motion, which sought to represent the old liberal and Christian democratic traditions of the former UDF, DL and parts of the RPR. The FMH motion had received strong support from UMP parliamentarians, totalling 39% support within the ranks of the party’s parliamentarians (against only 8% for the Droite forte motion), but only 18.2% from member. The FMH, with its weak result, did not profit from its strong backing by the party’s parliamentarian elites, but its map heavily reflects the local appeal of its main signatories.

It dominated the Poitou-Charentes, Raffarin’s native region, taking 39.2% in the Vienne (his department) and doing even better in the Deux-Sèvres with 44.4%. Its best result, however, came from the Haute-Marne (it won 48.4%), which is Luc Chatel’s department. Backed by Leonetti but also Copé’s second running-mate Michèle Tabarot, the FMH carried the Alpes-Maritimes with 26.8%. In the Drôme, the support of local parliamentarian Hervé Mariton pushed it over the top, taking 30.1%. In the Meuse, Gérard Longuet’s department, the FMH won 30.4% thanks to his support. In the Aveyron, backed by Yves Censi, it won 30.3%. In Copé’s native turf, the Seine-et-Marne, where it was backed by loyal Copé stalwart Franck Riester, it won 32.6%. Its performance in the Nord (22.7%), Daubresse’s fed, was more disappointing. The FMH’s map reflects no political traditions, rather it is a mish-mash of favourite son effects for its main leaders in their own departments.

Also in the disappointments category, the Gaullist motion’s weak result (12.3%), again despite some strong support with UMP parliamentarians (about 18%) with some big name backers (MAM, Larcher, Accoyer). The Gaullist or neo-Gaullist family had been one of the founding families of the UMP in 2002, the dominant stream within the RPR at the moment of the UMP’s foundation. Once again, the motion’s map is largely a collection of favourite sons/daughters effects. It carried only two departments, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (26.4%) and the Territoire de Belfort (29.6%) and in both cases these victories owe to the backing of a local leader: Alliot-Marie in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Damien Meslot (a deputy) in Belfort.

It did well in the Hautes-Alpes (25.1%), which was Patrick Ollier’s (who is MAM’s husband) department before he moved politically to the Hauts-de-Seine in 2002; it seems as if he might have retained some local influence in a department which otherwise has no major national leaders. In the Vaucluse, where it took 21.1%, its support is due to Julien Aubert, a young deputy who endorsed the motion. In the Marne, where it took 20.8%, it is again due to local support (Catherine Vautrin). Slightly more interesting in the Dordogne (20.6%) and the Lot-et-Garonne (21.4%). The Dordogne is the old stronghold of Yves Guéna, an old Gaullist baron, and the department had an anti-Sarkozyst and fairly Gaullist/villepiniste deputy, Daniel Garrigue until June but Garrigue left the UMP a few years ago on bad terms with Sarkozy. The Lot-et-Garonne is a mystery.

Once again, a map reflecting contemporary personalities and barons rather than any historical traditions. The motion won only 9.8% in Chirac’s Corrèze, and the old Gaullist strongholds of Lorraine (notably Haute-Marne), northern France or the Atlantic seaboard are basically absent or unremarkable.

The Droite populaire, the representative of the party’s right-wing since 2010, did poorly, with only 10.9% of the vote, barely qualifying for recognition as a movement and financial autonomy. The Droite pop, born in 2010 as a very vocal parliamentary caucus within the UMP for the party’s most nationalist and populist right-wing deputies, had been severely weakened after the legislative elections in June when a good number of its members lost reelection (going from 42 to 19 members). As a result, the motion received the support of only 18 parliamentarians. Furthermore, the Droite pop was the main victim of the Droite forte‘s success, which is ideologically broadly similar to the Droite pop and shares with it a knack for provocation, but it also had the added advantages of novelty, charismatic and media-savvy young ambitious leaders and the big appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ as a brand name within the UMP.

The Droite pop carried a single department, the Vaucluse (30.7%) – a very right-wing (if not far-right) department where the demographics of the UMP membership lean heavily to the right, but also the base of one of the motion’s leaders – Thierry Mariani (even if he is now elected for French citizens in Asia/Oceania). It also did well in the Tarn (26.3%), a federation led by former Droite pop deputy Bernard Carayon. The motion also had some success in the Bouches-du-Rhône (18.5%) where it has a strong bench of current and former deputies (Reynès, Deflesselles, Tian, Diard, Joissains-Masini, Mallié); the Pyrénées-Orientales (18.3%) where it had two parliamentarians until June; the Gard (17%) where it also had parliamentarians until June; the Alpes-Maritimes (15.9%) backed by Lionnel Luca; the Aube (19.4%) backed by Nicolas Dhuicq and the Rhône (16.5%) where it has a few parliamentarians.

Only one motion did not break the 10% threshold to qualify as a motion, the vague ‘Boîte à idées‘ led by some non-aligned and moderate UMP parliamentarians (Le Maire, Apparu) and with some prominent supporters (Juppé, Balladur, Bertrand). The motion had taken a strong stance against the Droite forte. With 9.2% however, it does not qualify as a movement.

The motion won a single department, Bruno Le Maire’s Eure with 26.9%. It won 22.1% in the Haute-Marne, likely due to the support of the department’s other UMP deputy, François Cornut-Gentille. In the Marne, where it was backed by Benoist Apparu, it won 14.3%. It performed well in the Vienne (20%), Saône-et-Loire (19.2%), Seine-Maritime (17.4%), Loiret (17.4%) and Jura (15.3%). In the Jura, Loiret, Seine-Maritime and Saône-et-Loire it was backed by local UMP parliamentarians.

The results of the motions vote carries an important lesson. Nicolas Sarkozy has left a profound mark on the party, and was able to successfully shape it to his liking. Most notably, he shifted the UMP to the right. From a party which at its foundations was dominated by the fairly moderate and ‘Orleanist’ traditions of liberalism, Christian democracy or late-90s chiraquien neo-Gaullism (whose nature as some kind of RadSoc pragmatism and moderation makes it more Orleanist than Bonapartist) from the UDF and RPR, it has become a far more right-wing party, more inclined towards populism or the ‘Bonapartist’ tradition of the right. The membership of the party even appears to be the right of its leaders.

The UMP’s rightward shift at the expense of the old dominant ideologies of the UDF, DL and RPR is visible in the failure of the two motions which had aimed to represent the historical tradition of the UDF, DL and RPR – the FMH and Gaullists, who won only 30.5% together against 38.7% for the Droite forte and Droite pop, two byproducts of the Sarkozyst transformation of the UMP into a far more right-wing ‘Bonapartist’ party. Even the party’s moderate wing preferred the newer Droite sociale led by Laurent Wauquiez to the more traditional and old-style FMH; and it is notable that Wauquiez’s motion, although clearly representing the moderate wing of the party, carries certain right-wing undertones (lutte contre l’assistanat) which are not reflective of the old social Christian tradition and are instead closer to the New Right’s emphasis on personal responsibility and individual initiative.

The acrimonious battle for Sarkozy’s succession has opened a deep crisis, if not civil war, within the UMP which could yet lead to the party’s explosion. With the party’s rank-and-file but also elites shifting to the right since Sarkozy seized control of the UMP from Chirac in 2004, the UMP leadership is finding it increasingly tough to create a synthesis between the different families of the right which have coexisted within the big-tent UMP. Particularly, the party’s ex-UDF centrist wing which finds its roots in the CDS is feeling more and more out of place in the UMP, and are increasingly attracted back towards their traditional home on the centre-right, a home which Borloo, Lagarde and others are trying to recreate in the form of the UDI. Pierre Méhaignerie, a former leader of the CDS and one of the prominent ex-UDF centrists within the UMP (he was Sarkozy’s secretary-general between 2004 and 2007), joined the UDI in the aftermath of the UMP crisis. Others of his political affiliation may follow in his footsteps. The UMP faces difficult days ahead, even if the rapidly growing unpopularity of the PS government provides it with an opening to regain the initiative and recover lost strength.

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Posted on December 11, 2012, in France, Primaries, leadership contests or internal party votes. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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