Conservative ump in france: party leader sacrificed

Conservative party leader Jean-Francois Cope must resign over corruption. His resignation reveals the mendacity of established politicians.

Had to cry: Jean-Francois Cope. Picture: reuters

The entire party leadership of the conservative UMP (Union pour un Mouvement populaire) announced its resignation in Paris on Tuesday. Behind this collective decision is actually the forced departure of party leader Jean-Francois Cope. He had to resign and promise not to run again for the presidency at the extraordinary party congress on Oct. 15. In the meantime, a trio of three former prime ministers, Alain Juppe, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Francois Fillon, will assume the provisional party presidency.

At a crisis meeting of the UMP’s "politburo," Cope was called upon by his own colleagues to draw the consequences of a financial scandal that, in their view, called into question not only the party’s reputation but also its very existence. And nothing says that Cope’s resignation has ended the crisis, because the judiciary is now investigating. In addition, former President Nicolas Sarkozy is also being implicated in a multi-million-dollar fraud at the expense of the UMP.

Everything in this affair revolves around a company founded by two close associates of Cope called "Bygmalion," which specializes in organizing political "events" such as election rallies. At first, suspicions arose that Cope had favored his two friends too much during the 2012 election campaign and that they had sent excessive bills to the UMP for their services. On closer inspection, however, it turned out that dozens of events had been paid for out of the party’s coffers that had never taken place.

For example, Pierre Lellouche, a member of parliament, was astonished to discover that he had presided over a conference on loans for a horrendous fee. Only it never took place, and Lellouche wants to sue for misuse of his identity. Liberation then revealed that the UMP had paid at least 20 million euros to Bygmalion.

Cope, who had at first flatly denied everything and backed his two confidants, now suddenly thanked the media for opening his eyes. The suspicion remained that as party leader he had to know what was being financed with such a large part of the budget. Now the Bygmalion company, for its part, does not want to spoon out the soup. Their lawyer, Patrick Maisonneuve, dropped a bombshell on Monday: In reality, the invoices were deliberately falsified and paid by the UMP, which served to conceal the excessive expenses of Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. Sarkozy’s election campaign had cost more than the law allowed.

Bygmalion acted under pressure, according to Maisonneuve. Cope’s right-hand man, Jerôme Lavrilleux, who was deputy chief of the presidential campaign in 2012, confirmed this on the same day in front of television cameras. Through tears, however, he assured Cope and Sarkozy that he had said nothing about these fraudulent cover-up tricks.

Somewhat incredulously, like other newspapers, Le Monde speaks derisively of this "sacrificial walk of the ‘bad boy’" of the UMP, who only three days ago was considered a rising star in his party and elected as a deputy to the EU Parliament. This sensibly allows him to invoke his parliamentary immunity in the ongoing investigations.

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