Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is once again poised to take control over the French right and emerge as the leading conservative candidate in the presidential poll in 2017.
He emerged almost unscathed following a 12-hour-long interrogation by an anti-corruption judge investigating claims that he accepted illegal campaign funds from France’s richest woman, the l’Oreal billionairess, Lilliane Bettencourt. Although still considered a key player in the case, Mr. Sarkozy has not been charged and close associates say he managed to convince the judge of his innocence.
Adding to his satisfaction is the fact that his former party, the right-wing UMP, is now in tatters following a grossly mismanaged election to choose the new party president. There is unbelievable bickering between party leaders former Prime Minister Francois Fillon and current party leader Jean Francois Coppe and this has cleared the way for a possible comeback by Mr. Sarkozy in the 2017 presidential poll in France. Both leaders’ mutual accusations of massive ballot stuffing and fraud have angered party members.
Mr. Sarkozy has never stopped being the darling of the right. That popularity has reached its zenith as party members come to grips with the fact that neither Mr. Fillon nor Mr. Coppe are fit to govern, in view of the sorry spectacle they have offered the nation. The enmity between the two men is such that the UMP is poised to split. A centrist wing has already broken away. In such circumstances Mr. Sarkzoy could prove to be the sole unifying factor.