France's UMP opposition loses its chief amid fraud scandal and drubbing at polls

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France's UMP opposition loses its chief amid fraud scandal and drubbing at polls

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The now former head of France’s conservative opposition party, Jean-Francois Copé is sticking to his guns and declaring his innocence after having been forced to quit.

His resignation is linked to a scandal for the UMP involving allegations of fake invoices used to hide spiralling costs during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“For me this is a personal challenge that’s why I ask the French people to trust me – my integrity is untainted. Yes, I discovered the whole thing 12 days ago but only when it was published in the Libération newspaper,” said Copé when he appeared on French television.

The offices of event organiser Bygmalion which is run by friends of Copé, have been searched after a party official on Monday revealed there had been “anomalies” in campaign funding to the tune of 11 million euros.

The scandal plus the UMP weekend drubbing at the polls by the National Front have been described as a disaster by party member Eric Ciotti:

“It is a major crisis, of an unheard scope. Two earthquakes: a political earthquake on Sunday and a judicial earthquake on Monday. Stunning, astounding, shocking revelations, which have legitimately shocked members of parliament, and party supporters.”

The allegations relate to Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed attempt at re-election two years ago and although both he and Copé deny any knowledge of the alleged fraud it could have possible implications for a return to politics for the ex-president.