Friday, October 11, 2013

Copé Refuses to Choose Between Hollande and Le Pen

Jean-François Copé, the leader of the UMP and presidential hopeful-in-waiting, was asked point-blank how he would vote in 2017 if the second round came down to a choice between Hollande and Le Pen. He refused to choose (watch the video at the link to appreciate the full smarminess of his expression), accrediting the notion that he would consider both alternatives equally unpalatable. This after Jean-Pierre Raffarin had just said without hesitation that he would make the "republican" choice in favor of Hollande (as Hollande reminded everyone he did in favor of Chirac in 2002). Copé thus aligns himself with Fillon, who also refused to draw a clear distinction, saying only that he would vote for the less "sectarian" of the two candidates (without specifying his criteria of "sectarianism").

The UMP is thus dividing itself rapidly into two camps: those who want to distance Le Pen and those who hope to entice her voters by suggesting that if the lights are turned down low enough, they might just embrace her. It's an appalling spectacle, this courtship of the Mean Girl, who is rightly most contemptuous of those who would steal a kiss from her if they thought it would make them more popular with the tough kids on the far right end of the schoolyard.

My instincts tell me that Copé and Fillon are discrediting themselves with these âneries. Both look increasingly desperate. Meanwhile, Juppé, who has been clear in his rejection of Le Pen, has been quietly putting himself forward as the potential standard-bearer for those on the Right who cannot stomach the UMP droitisé. Subtly, the vaunted rivalry between Copé and Fillon is thus giving way to a more substantial struggle between Juppé and a Sarkozy (miraculously delivered from disgrace by the favor of his judges in the Bettencourt scandal, although he still has Karachigate and Tapiegate to worry about, entre autres). As for the next generation, NKM is the clear anti-Le Pen candidate, and she is doing better than expected in the Paris mayoral contest, although I'm told she will probably still lose. Bruno Le Maire has been disappointingly circumspect in the Le Pen controversy.

Since the UMP will choose its next presidential candidate by open primary, it's not out of the question that a principled centrist could prevail even without a substantial base among party militants.