French "Sarkothon" raises 11 mln euros and refills UMP coffers
PARIS, Sept 8
PARIS, Sept 8 (Reuters) - France's main opposition party said on Sunday a national drive to refill its coffers and avert a financial crisis had met its target, raising 11 million euros ($14.5 million) in just two months.
French election auditors ruled in July the Conservative UMP had overspent during former president Nicolas Sarkozy's 2012 campaign. As a penalty, they ordered it to repay the 11 million euros of state money it had been advanced.
To plug the hole, the UMP embarked on a nationwide fundraising campaign, dubbed a "Sarkothon" by the media.
"In eight weeks, the UMP has carried out the most important fundraising campaign ever made by a political party under the Fifth Republic," UMP President Jean-Francois Cope told young militants in northern France on Sunday.
"I am pleased to announce it today: there, it's done, we have reached the required 11 million euros," he added.
The Constitutional Council's ruling had been a blow to the centre-right party after a tumultuous year which saw it torn in two, in an acrimonious leadership struggle in the wake of Sarkozy's defeat to Socialist Francois Hollande in May 2012.
"I want each of you to know how grateful I am for this mobilisation which surprised me as much as it moved me ... Thank you all," Sarkozy wrote on his Twitter account.
Sarkozy has remained largely out of sight since his defeat but in recent months has fanned speculation that he is considering a re-election bid for 2017.
Cope, a Sarkozy ally, has said he would give up any presidential ambitions if his mentor decided to run again.
But any comeback for Sarkozy would hinge on the outcome of a host of legal headaches, including scrutiny over the funding of his 2007 campaign. ($1 = 0.7600 euros) (Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou and Sophie Louet; Writing by Natalie Huet; Editing by Andrew Roche)