Bayrou & Borloo Unite Again in Formation of The Alternative

François Bayrou. Photo: Flickr.com/alibaba0

François Bayrou. Photo: Flickr.com/alibaba0

It was like a family reunion. Not the kind when your family gathers every Christmas or Easter, but instead when you resolve a longstanding family dispute and make peace with a brother you have not seen in ten years. François Bayrou and Jean-Louis Borloo have joined their efforts and formed a new political party, the Alternative.

Bayrou and Borloo are political brothers who were brought up in the center-right movement Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF). They had their first political experiences in the mid-1990s during the triumph of the right. But in 2002, a few weeks after Bayrou’s defeat as the 2002 UDF presidential candidate, President Jacques Chirac offered the members of the UDF an alliance. It was at this point that Bayrou and Borloo chose different paths.

Photo: Flickr.com/Pierre Metivier

Jean-Louis Borloo
Photo: Flickr.com/Pierre Metivier

Borloo chose to join the new party Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP) and went on to become a Minister several times under both Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. Bayrou, on the other hand, was one of the few to remain faithful to the UDF, representing the party in the 2007 presidential election. After winning a surprising 17% of the vote in that election, Bayrou created his own party, the Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem), with the goal of establishing a political force independent from both wings of the political spectrum.

For both men, the past several months have been bitter. Borloo distanced himself from the radical campaign led by Sarkozy and had to leave the UMP to create a new center-right party, the Union des démocrates et indépendentes (UDI). Bayrou suffered a new defeat in the 2012 presidential election and his party cannot manage to establish a new dynamic.

Both men needed each other: Borloo needed to unite the former center-right movement to gain credibility, and Bayrou needed Borloo’s charisma to survive his successive electoral failures.

It is no surprise then that last week, Borloo and Bayrou launched the Alternative, a union of the MoDem and the UDI, with the objective of defending a moderate right-wing position in the upcoming local and European elections that will take place next spring.

The terms of their agreement remain vague, however. They will present candidates in the local elections and will not sign new alliances with left-wing parties. But although existing alliances between the MoDem with the Parti socialiste (PS) will be renewed, the UMP will probably be their natural ally in the future.

Now, the question will be the same as the one they faced in 2002. Either the Alternative will garner enough votes to negotiate with the UMP or will need to depend on the support of other parties to elect representatives if they do not.

Further ahead lies an even bigger challenge for Bayrou and Borloo: how will their alliance resist the battle of egos that characterizes every presidential election? Bayrou has already failed four times since 1995. Meanwhile, Borloo has never been a candidate, although he did not hide his ambition in the 2012 race. Can a party have two leaders? How can the Alternative survive without a clear platform? Is there a place for a moderate right-wing party in the largely bipartisan system of the Fifth Republic? Those are only a few of the challenges Bayrou and Borloo will face in the upcoming weeks. But it will surely be interesting to watch.

Trackbacks

  1. […] It was like a family reunion. Not the kind when your family gathers every Christmas or Easter, but instead when you resolve a longstanding family dispute and make peace with a brother you have not seen in 10 years. François Bayrou and Jean-Louis Borloo have joined their efforts and formed a new political party, the Alternative. Read more about the foundation of the Alternative. […]

  2. […] shook the PS with his announcement, the impact has been twice as powerful on the right wing. The center right of Bayrou and Borloo has been ridiculed. After supporting Hollande in the last election, Bayrou had distanced himself from the President for […]

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