The UMP, the political party of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, last night chose a trio of former prime ministers to run the party and get to the bottom of a financial scandal.
Party leader Jean-Francois Cope quit May 27 after press revelations that false invoices were used to cover up spending that went over the legal limit during Sarkozy’s losing 2012 presidential campaign.
“My first job is to shed light on the financial activities of the party,” Francois Fillon, one the three former prime ministers, said in an interview on Europe1 radio. “Our first decision will be an internal audit.”
The other members of the trio are Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Alain Juppe. Luc Chatel, a Sarkozy loyalist, was selected as the UMP’s secretary general to work alongside the trio.
Fillon said a new party leader will be chosen at a yet-to-be scheduled party congress. “We can deal with this without a civil war,” he said.
Fillon, Sarkozy’s prime minister, and Cope fought a bitter succession battle following the 2012 election. Fillon has rejected talk that Sarkozy should return from his political retirement to run the party.
Fillon told Europe1 the UMP will pick its presidential candidate in 2017 with a primary. Brice Hortefeux, a minister in Sarkozy’s government and a close friend of the former president, said in an interview last month that a primary wouldn’t be necessary if Sarkozy returned and “imposed himself as the natural choice.”
Fillon said today that he doesn’t if Sarkozy knew of the overspending. “Ask him,” he said.