He’s back as leader of the UMP but can the former President go all the way?
Headline writers around the world are no doubt rejoicing. France’s outspoken former President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched his new bid for the presidency, being elected leader of the opposition party UMP.
Sarkozy, who left active politics after his defeat in 2012, has been on the campaign trail with his supermodel wife Carla Bruni – described as a secret weapon in his long-awaited comeback. He left a message for his supporters on Facebook following his victory. “This vote marks a new beginning for our political family,” he wrote on the social network.
“It calls me and urges us all. We must be united and dedicate ourselves to finding new solutions for France. It is in these conditions that we will restore hope to our compatriots.”
His winning of 64.5 per cent of the vote to retake the helm of UMP means his chances of standing as UMP’s candidate in the 2017 elections are high, but many are saying his lower than expected majority means other UMP leaders, such as Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, could be encouraged to stand against him.
Current French President Francois Hollande is enduring some dismal ratings but the memory of Sarkozy’s “bling bling” presidency, as his critics call it, could stop Sarkozy from shacking up in Elysée Palace for another term.
His wife, however, is a big part of his plan. While the French public disliked Sarkozy’s bling, they generally saw Mrs Sarkozy-Bruni as classy and affable. There were some questions as to whether she would allow her husband to return to politics. She famously complained that she couldn’t get good modelling contracts with her husband running the country. But her recent comments to L’Express say something else: “I’m afraid that without politics, my husband would lose the meaning of life.”
With his wife on side, his centre-right UMP peers are not the only people standing in between Sarkozy and the presidency. Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader is gaining huge support and could easily become his bête noire – with a recent opinion poll suggesting Ms Le Pen could win 30 per cent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election.
But Sarkozy has already got the fighting talk to push her back, adopting a eurosceptic stance and declaring he wants the EU to lose half its powers. Looks like we’ve got a grand combat on our hands.