UMP meltdown: the self-destruction of France's main opposition party

Debts of nearly 80 million euros, a party leader who had to step down over an election funding scandal, warring factions, public attacks, leaked allegations that senior party figures and their relatives have been milking its finances for their own benefit and continuing scandals surrounding its talismanic figure Nicolas Sarkozy... France's main opposition party the UMP seems on the brink of a political abyss. Indeed, one senior figure in it has claimed that the right-wing party is “already dead”. Mathilde Mathieu, Ellen Salvi and Marine Turchi report on a party crisis that shows no sign of abating and could end in its destruction.

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday 8 July, the interim leaders of France's main opposition party the right-wing UMP released details of the latest audit on its finances. It did not make for pretty reading. True, the party's debts had come down from the colossal 96 million euros it had suffered back in 2012, the year of President Nicolas Sarkozy's election defeat to François Hollande and the party's hammering at parliamentary elections. But at just under 80 million euros the current debt is still unsustainable for a party whose income was around 46 million euros in 2013.

The independent audit said that the party, still reeling from the Bygmalion funding scandal surrounding claims that it hid the true cost of Sarkozy's 2012 election campaign, and from the ongoing affairs that surround Sarkozy himself, must reduce its running costs and renegotiate its credit deals with banks. In the meantime the funding crisis raises real doubts about how the UMP will be able to pay for primary elections to choose its next presidential candidate for 2017 and how it will be able to pay for the presidential campaign itself. It even poses questions over the staging of its scheduled autumn conference to find a new leader after its former head Jean-François Copé stepped down in May over the 2012 election funding scandal. Because of the expense, it is likely that the November 'conference' will not take place physically but will instead give members the chance to vote electronically.