Saturday, November 29, 2014

He's baaaaaack!

Nicolas Sarkozy is once again the head of the UMP. Le Monde and many other commentators would nevertheless like to see a victory here for Bruno Le Maire, who scored a respectable 29+ % on a turnout of 57% and kept Sarko below the 70% threshold that would have allowed him to claim a resounding plebiscite (he was elected head of the party 10 years with a majority of 85%). But still, this was a badly wounded Sarkozy, saddled with a dozen investigations, widely perceived to have botched his comeback campaign in a number of respects, yet he scored nearly 70% among the party faithful, despite polls showing that the electorate at large preferred Juppé as a 2017 presidential candidate. This was also a Sarkozy who is up to his eyeballs in the Bygmalion affair, where all signs are that his campaign looted the party coffers in its desperate bid not to lose the 2012 presidential election. And this was a Sarkozy who is probably going to rebrand the party with a new name and conceivably set the rules of the presidential primary to favor himself. He is, as I've often said, a gifted politician, so it's not surprising to find that he still has strong support, but he is also a politician who has proven that his gifts were not sufficient to ensure a successful presidency, so it's not easy to explain why his support remains as strong as it is. Since the UMP powers-that-be have decided not to release details about the voting, we will probably never have a full demographic-political analysis of the vote. But at least we are sure that the always-entertaining Sarkozy will make the next couple of years interesting. Unless the courts sideline him, of course.

How Le Maire plays his cards from here will also be interesting to watch. At first he said he would not participate in the leadership of a Sarko-headed UMP. Then he seemed to backtrack a bit. I wouldn't be surprised to see him emerge as a strong backer of Juppé's candidacy, perhaps with a prominent role in the campaign. The Le Maire-Wauquiez battle will be interesting to watch. Wauquiez surely resents the way Le Maire's bid for the UMP leadership pushed his rival forward as the next-generation candidate of the Right. He now needs Sarkozy's support to reposition himself, and Sarkozy could use Wauquiez's support in rebuilding the party.

I'm supposed to be writing an article on all this, so I'd better save something for later.