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Trio of former PMs take charge at UMP

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon take ‘provisional control’ of scandal-hit centre-right party

FRANCE’S scandal-hit centre-right opposition party, the UMP, has put a trio of former prime ministers in charge as it tries to move on from the latest in a series of crippling political scandals.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon took “provisional control” of the conservative party, following a unanimous vote by party officials.

They will lead the party until the autumn congress, when a new president will be elected.

Two of the provisional leadership team - Mr Juppe and Mr Fillon - are regarded as potential Presidential candidates in 2017.

There is also speculation that Nicolas Sarkozy may make a comeback - although the former President has made no statement about his political future.

Mr Fillon has already declared his intention to run for President in 2017, while Mr Juppé, who was hugely unpopular when he was Prime Minister in Jacques Chirac’s government, has been widely praised for how he has run the city of Bordeaux, where he is Mayor, and is running neck-and-neck with Mr Sarkozy in opinion polls.

The UMP has struggled to unite behind a single leader since Sarkozy stepped down after losing the 2012 Presidential election.

Last month, outgoing party president Jean-François Copé revealed he would stand down as leader of the crisis-hit UMP as more revelations emerged over a €10m campaign spending scandal over the funding of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed 2012 election campaign.

The two years since Mr Sarkozy’s defeat in 2012 have seen a parliamentary election wipeout, Jean-François Copé’s election as leader bitterly contested amid accusations of fraud, an expensive and controversial move to new premises, a fine for overspending on the unsuccessful 2012 Presidential campaign and, most recently, the so-called Bygmalian Affair.

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