Nicolas Sarkozy and his soon-to-be “Républicains” are back

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Image: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes
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Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, his rightwing party, the UMP, and its allies emerged as the victors in France’s local elections over the weekend—taking 27 départements, or regional administrative councils, and bringing its total to 67 so far (link in French). President Francois Hollande and his Socialist Party could end up holding fewer than half of the councils that they held last week.

It was truly a bad day for Hollande, who is unpopular despite a short-term boost from a robust response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in January. He is failing to convince people that controversial reforms such as letting shops open on a Sunday will help pull France out of its economic malaise.

And it was a very good day for Sarkozy, who returned to politics last year after being booted out in 2012, and is looking to avenge his defeat by Hollande in the next presidential election, in 2017. “Change is coming,” he declared. “Nothing will stop it.”

Change is also coming to the UMP. Reports suggest that Sarkozy is planning to change the party’s name from l’Union pour un Mouvement Populaire to Les Républicains—after rejecting the suggestion of Le Rassemblement, or The Gathering. It would be the party’s sixth name change since 1947. Wits are already calling it Les Ripoublicains, or Rotten Ones, after a series of ongoing corruption cases against Sarkozy and others in the party.

One big surprise of the night—the far-right Front National led by Marine Le Pen failed to win any councils at all (link in French). But nevertheless, her party continues to grow. After winning 15% of the vote in the 2011, the party got 25% this time around (link in French)—another ominous sign for the 2017 election, which many polls currently show Le Pen as winning.

When all is said and done, the right is rising in France.