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Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Political party, France)


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[Flag of UMP]

Flag of UMP - Image by António Martins, 28 December 2008, based on the party's logo

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Presentation of UMP

The UMP was founded in 2002 as a union of conservative parties supporting Jacques Chirac for the presidential election. Early, transient names of the party were Union en mouvement (4 April 2001) and Union pour la majorité présidentielle (23 April 2002, two days after the first round of the presidential election). The UMP is made of the former conservative parties RPR (Rassemblement pour la République) and DL (Démocratie Libérale), which formally disappeared and joined the UMP on 21 September 2002, and of members of the former UDF (Union pour la Démocratie Française). The small Parti Radical has the status of associate member. The founding act of the UMP is the manifesto France alternance : pour un nouveau contrat politique, cosigned by 160 Deputees and Senators from RPR, DL and UDF, and published in the conservative reference newspaper Le Figaro on 13 January 2001. The manifesto was initiated by the former Prime Minister Alain Juppé (RPR) and promoted by Jérôme Monod, Chirac's Private Councillor at the palace of Elysée.
The foundation of the UMP is an attempt to unite the conservative parties under a single leadership, which rarely happened in the history of the Fourth Republic (1947-1959) and the Fifth Republic (1959-).

On 20 June 1946, Charles de Gaulle, Head of the Provisory Government of France, resigned. He proposed a new Constitution, very close to the future Constitution of the Vth Republic, and founded on 7 April 1947 the RPF (Rassemblement du Peuple Français). Originally, the RPF had a very wide range of voters and some of his leaders were from left parties, but the world situation - the Cold War and the War of Indochina - made the RPF evolve to a very conservative, anti-Communist party. The RPF was disbanded in 1953.
In 1958, the Fifth Republic superseded the Fourth Republic. According to the political system prescribed by the Constitution, the President of the Republic needs to be supported by a majority of Deputees (majorité présidentielle); de Gaulle believed that a majority made by several parties would prevent him to apply his ideas and would reestablish the régime des partis that had caused the end of the Fourth Republic. Therefore, he founded the "monolithic" UNR (Union pour la Nouvelle République); the party was renamed UDR (Union pour la Défense de la République) in 1968. After de Gaulle's death, the party was renamed Union des Démocrates pour la République in 1971.

The big split occurred in 1976, when Prime Minister Jacques Chirac resigned following a conflict with President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The UDR was transformed into the RPR (Rassemblement pour la République), a party which claimed to be the only defender of de Gaulle's heritage. The logotype of the party showed a Cross of Lorraine surmonted by a tricolor liberty cap. Most of the so-called Gaullist "barons", de Gaulle's brother-in-arms during the Second World War, joined the RPR. Giscard's supporters named themselves RI (Républicains Indépendants) and promoted a break with de Gaulle's system and the modernization od the country.
To compete with the RPR, Giscard needed his own presidential party and founded in 1978 the UDF (Union pour la Démocratie Française). In contrast with the "monolithic" RPR, the UDF was a loose union of several parties, the most significant of them being the PR (Parti Républicain, successor of the RI) and the CDS (Centre des Démocrates Sociaux). The CDS represented Christian Democracy and was the successor of the CD (Centre Démocrate), itself the successor of the MRP (Mouvement Républicain Populaire) founded in 1944 by Georges Bidault and Maurice Schumann. The MRP opposed de Gaulle and was often nicknamed Mon Révérend Père because of its Catholic program. The structure of the UDF was fairly complicated. Members of its component parties were de facto members of the UDF, but it was also possible to be a non-affiliated member (adhérent direct), that is being member of the UDF without being member of a component party. This was for instance the case of Raymond Barre, Giscard's last Prime Minister. There were also relatives (apparentés), which were not members of the party. The situation was so complicated that it was possible to be registered as apparenté CDS adhérent direct UDF.

The RPR strongly blackmailed the UDF and especially the CDS, which claimed to represent center-right: if you don't support us at the national level, we won't support you at the local level. Since the RPR was much bigger and better established locally, the UDF and the CDS often had to approve projects that were in contradition with their own program. The situation was even more complicated by the personal antagonism between Chirac and Giscard; for the the second round of the presidential election in 1981, Chirac told "he would not vote for Giscard", which was a blatant call to defeat him. Giscard never forgave him and still uses any possibility to take revenge.
It took a few years to the conservative parties, especially the RPR, to admit that changeover (alternance) of political power between parties was possible in France. The Constitution was tailor-made by de Gaulle for himself and he probably never thought that the left parties could reach the power. Following the so-called renovation movement, the CDS was renamed FD (Force Démocrate) in 1995 and the PR was renamed DL (Démocratie Libérale) in 1998. DL left the UDF under the guidance of its leader Alain Madelin, an ultra partisan of free-market. The UDF became the new UDF under the leadership of François Bayrou.
Madelin and Bayrou were candidates to the 2002 presidential election, both with an alternative project to Chirac. Madelin's result was pathetic but Bayrou attracted more votes than predicted by the political analysts. Accordingly, DL joined the newly formed UMP but Bayrou decided to remain out of the monolithic party. Since then, Bayrou stands as the only credible conservative alternative to the UMP and often expresses his opposition to the government. This cause another problem in the UDF since some members individually joined the UMP. There is currently only one Minister from the UDF in the UMP government and he was very coldly welcomed during the last national meeting of his party.
To be comprehensive, it must be added that not all members of the former RPR joined the UMP. The most conservative members of the RPR rejected the pro-European policy of the party and founded their own RPF (Rassemblement pour la France) around the controversial former Minister of the Interior Charles Pasqua. Ironically, Pasqua, once considered as the best strategist of the RPR, was one of the warmest supporters of a wide union of the conservative parties.

Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of the UMP in 2004 and took the control of the party from Chirac's friends. Official candidate of the party, Sarkozy was elected President of the Republic on 6 May 2007. In July 2007, the statutes of UMP were amended, replacing the party's President by a collegiate direction formed of three Vice Presidents.
In the legislative elections that followed the 2007 presidential elections, the UMP won 313 out of the 577 seats.

Ivan Sache, 2 December 2008

Flag of UMP

The flag of UMP is made of the rectangular logo of the party, vertically divided blue-red with a white tree in the middle, surmonting the party initials in white. While the logo is very often seen, the flag is rather rarely used.
The flag was used in the party's national congress in June 2004, as shown on tv images (France2).
In 2005, the referendum in France on the proposed EU 'constitution' resulted in a lot of tv coverage in Britain, including many shots of political rallies, for and against, with flags being waved. This coverage provided evidence that the UMP has a flag.

Olivier Touzeau & André Coutanche, 28 December 2008