Today at least 78,000 UMP supporters gathered in Versailles for a day of speeches and the nomination of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency. This affair has been quite the to-do: the UMP has spent over 3.5 million euros in total, and bused in supporters from all across France.
Sarkozy appears to be attempting to shed his "politician" reputation by wearing only an open collar white shirt and jacket. Although he will have an official speech later today, Sarkozy has already tried to promote the idea of a united UMP, after several weeks of tension.
"The French look at us. We are a great united family. We are the opening...All those which will come here must be regarded as friends. Sectarianism, closing is for the others, not for us. Here, one is tolerant, respectful."
But despite the all UMP affair, the spectre of Segolene Royal has never been far from anyone's words thoughts. Former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur urged unity because "the competition will be much harder than we can think." Another leader even mocked Royal's invention of "bravitude" in China with an invention of his own: "ségolénitude".
All in all, Sarkozy should be given a great deal of credit for being able to rise so far from rather uncommon roots, and defy the traditionalists. In spite of recent tension on the right, he is expected to receive at least 80% of the votes from the online UMP ballot. His campaign website, sarkozy.fr, will go online 14:30 French time today, which I believe is 8:30 am Eastern for those in the US.
Update: Sarkozy has been nominated by a landslide, 98.1% of votes cast. The participation rate out of UMP members was 69.06%, probably depressed somewhat because there was no competition.
Here are some excerpts from Sarkozy's speech:
"My France is that of all the French without exception. It is France of Saint-Louis and that of Carnot, that of the crusades and Valmy, that of Pascal and Voltaire, that of the cathedrals and the Encyclopaedia (...) That of the workers (...) who do not recognize themselves in the motionless left.
My France, it is that of all the French who do not know very well at the bottom if they are of right-hand side, left or the center.
I changed because at the moment even where you indicated me, I ceased being the man of only one party, was the first of France.
I want to pay my respect to Jacques Chirac who, in 1975, in Nice, offered me the opportunity of my first speech.
(After thanking a long list of people Sarkozy said) They taught me, with little French in my mixed blood, the love of France and the pride to be French."
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