Published on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 13:12 Written by Peter Allen
Jean-Francois Cope’s victory sets him up to be President of France in 2017, when he is likely to go head-to-head with Francois Hollande, the current Socialist head of state.
Cope, 48, beat his far more moderate opponent Francois Fillon by 50.03 per cent in a bitter election involving 300,000 members of the UMP party.
Its former President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was defeated by Hollande in May and on Thursday is set to appear before a judge in Bordeaux to answer corruption allegations.
Sarkozy became notorious for pursuing the votes of far right National Front supporters at the end of his five year term – a move which Cope is set to continue.
In his Manifesto for an Uninhibited Right, published last month, Cope argued that France's immigrant suburbs were brimming with ‘anti-white racism’.
He then shocked moderates by complaining about a boy who had his chocolate pastry snatched from him by Muslim ‘thugs’ during Ramadan.
‘I am the tenant of a right which does not have hang-ups, which tells the truth and is comfortable with itself,’ said Cope.
He also played a prominent role in the UMP’s campaign to ban the full-face Islamic veil and hold a controversial debate on national identity.
The election came as Mr Hollande languishes in the polls as he struggles to rein in a huge budget deficit and cut record unemployment.
Only 36 per cent of French people expressed confidence in him in November, according to one poll.
During the two elections, Cope supporters in the Alpes Maritimes department claimed ‘irregularities’ - an allegation dismissed as ‘insulting’ by supporters of Mr Fillon who, in turn, claimed fraud in other constituencies.
The electoral farce has now ended with a slight victory for the right wing of the party, who were just 98 votes ahead.
Mr Sarkozy could soon be placed under investigation as part of a probe into illegal party funding from France’s richest woman, the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
Mr Fillon was Mr Sarkozy's prime minister for his entire five-year term, and is a bitter enemy of Cope’s.
Credit: Daily Mail