Jean-François Copé and François Fillon have one more person to worry about in their race to be the President of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the center-right party of Nicolas Sarkozy.
In an exclusive interview published Monday in Le Figaro, Henri Guaino, special advisor to former President Sarkozy, announced that he was indeed a candidate for the leader of the party.
Guaino said that he entered the race because there were not enough options for the UMP supports, identifying himself as a Gaullist.
“It seems that we are almost ashamed to say we are Gaullist. Well, I want us in the UMP to be proud to be Gaullist. I want to embody that pride. If I get enough support, I will be meeting with activists so that together the best way to give meaning back to that word. If we want to speak to France about “no”, the great majority of French people who want to say no to everything and especially to politics, we need to already know for ourselves what we want to embody, what values, what principles, what idea of France, of the State, of the Republic, we are referring to,” Guaino said.
Guaino was elected in the most recent legislative election as a deputy in the National Assembly, representing the 3rd circumscription of Yvelines. In the interview he said that he did not intend to use the position as a stepping-stone for the Presidential election in 2017.
In his interview Guaino stressed that Sarkozy needed to stop being the focus of the current campaign. He said “we need to keep Nicolas Sarkozy out of all of this. That is the only way to respect him. His talent, his intelligence, his energy have allowed us not to have to answer the question of the meaning of our collective action. He responded for us. Now that he is no longer here, we cannot avoid an answer. This is the the great challenge of the next three years for the UMP. We will win or lose depending on what we represent to the eyes of the French.”
Since before Guaino entered the race, there has been an ongoing fight between the candidates regarding who will best uphold the UMP of Sarkozy. Because of this, the main campaign strategy for both candidates seems to be to draw as many similarities between the candidate and Sarkozy, and prove that the other will abandon the policies of the former President.
The former President has been busy meeting with many potential UMP leaders including his former press secretary, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet who is also a candidate along with Bruno Le Maire.
Just after Copé announced his official candidacy in late August, Fillon fought criticisms stemming from his comment in a Point article on August 23 in which he is quoted saying that he would bring more “serenity and pragmatism” than Sarkozy to the job. The article was all the Copé camp needed to attack Fillon for abandoning the “balance of Sarkozy.”
Fillon responded by saying “all criticism against the balance of Nicolas Sarkozy are criticisms against myself.” The former Prime Minister shot back at the Copé team without naming them, saying that “I saw that these last days certain people had discovered that there were differences between Nicolas Sarkozy and I, those who do this do not impress me because it has been five years that they have done this. It has been five years that every morning they wake up and ask themselves ‘what can we do to put a wedge between François Fillon and Nicolas Sarkozy.’ Well, they have not succeeded for 5 years and they will not succeed today.”
Guaino announced his candidacy with only 15 days left until the deadline.