French opposition targets media after corruption report

French UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) political party head Jean-Francois Cope speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters in Paris March 3, 2014. (Reuters)

The leader of France’s main opposition on Monday called for political parties and media groups to be required to publish detailed accounts that will make it easy to check how they are financed.

The initiative by Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the center-right UMP party, follows a report by respected weekly Le Point that he had used his influence to channel party contracts to a PR company run by two friends and political allies.

The two Cope aides are accused of systematically over-billing the UMP for organizing events, effectively enriching themselves on the back of the party they were supposed to be promoting.

Both Cope and the company concerned, Bygmalion, have said they will sue Le Point for defamation over last week’s report.

Conditions

Claiming to be the victim of a “veritable witch hunt” by the media, Cope said Monday the UMP was ready to publish all its accounts dating back to the 2007 presidential election, on condition that all other parties in receipt of public financing also did so.

He said he would be presenting a parliamentary bill to that effect and would also be tabling a parallel proposal to ensure similar rules applied to media who benefit from public subsidies (which in France is virtually every major magazine and newspaper) and to their senior editorial figures.

“They should have the same rules and obligations as parliamentarians,” Cope told a press conference.

The allegations against Cope came to light three weeks ahead of municipal elections in which the UMP’s support is expected to be squeezed by gains for the far-right National Front.

Cope’s time at the head of the UMP has been marred by a string of controversies, including an acrimonious row over alleged ballot-rigging in the leadership vote he narrowly won in 2012.

He is widely expected to be pushed aside in the event of former president Nicolas Sarkozy making a comeback to political life - which most pundits expect to happen in time for Sarkozy to run as the UMP’s candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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