On Tuesday September 18 at 8 p.m., the deadline for sponsors’ deposits for the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) leadership elections was officially closed. As many of the candidates have already given up the possibility of running for office, the anticipated battle between Jean François Copé and François Fillon is emerging.
Henri Guaino, Bruno Le Maire, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the only woman running for office, tried to introduce a “third way” into the Copé-Fillon opposition, but were all forced to give up their ambitions to rule the party. It is the same for Xavier Bertrand, who declared that he would wait for the 2017 UMP presidential primaries.
These “small candidates” could not compete with the UMP leaders, and the current system for appointing the party leader is primarily responsible for this. To get past the first round, candidates have to collect 7,924 sponsors, mainly 3% of UMP members in 10 different divisions of the party.
From Kosciusko-Morizet, to Copé or Fillon, all the candidates agree that the current way new leaders are appointed needs to be reformed. They all denounce this system that is judged to be too bureaucratic, and which no longer fits the party’s size, which has continued to go since its creation. Furthermore, this system prevents a truly democratic debate because the less important candidates are unlikely to receive the number of sponsors needed to pass the first round.
Kosciusko-Morizet and Le Maire have not chosen between Copé and Fillion, but Guaino claims that neither of them has the qualities of a leader, as opposed to Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac or Nicolas Sarkozy. According to him “We will not choose someone under whom we will align ourselves… We will choose a chairman who will chair, that is all.”
The coming dual between Copé and Fillon is already raging and the two candidates have two different, opposing campaign strategies. Copé, who is the current leader of the UMP, is planning a campaign on the ground where he will be close to the UMP members. As a result, he has more sponsors than Fillon. Fillon, on the other hand, who is currently leading in the polls, has based his campaign on his status as former Prime Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy.
In the coming two months, the UMP is going to be the stage of a furious battle for the leadership of the party, and it is possible that it will weaken the party more than it will strengthen it. On November 18 the members of the party will have to decide who they want to lead their party. Whether they choose Copé or Fillion, the new UMP chairman will need to bring a new energy to the party that desperately needs it.