Sarkozy renames French opposition The Republicans

A file photo taken on November 28, 2004 shows former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), addressing a party congress in Le Bourget, outside Paris Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption More than 80% of UMP members backed the name change on Friday

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has changed his party's name from Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) to The Republicans.

Members of France's main opposition party voted to support the rebranding on Friday, with 83% of members approving the move.

The move has sparked widespread debate in France, with critics arguing that all French people are Republicans.

Mr Sarkozy is widely expected to try for the presidency again in 2017.

According to one opinion poll, almost 70% of the public - and 40% of UMP supporters - said that no political party had the right to use the Republican label.

In an editorial in Le Monde (in French), a group of three writers and politicians said: "For Nicolas Sarkozy to name his party in such a way that claims to represent all Republicans, as though there is no-one else apart from him, is insulting and irresponsible."

Left-wing sympathisers had challenged the plan in court, arguing that - thanks to the French Revolution - every citizen of France is a Republican, not just those who vote for Mr Sarkozy, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Paris reports.

However, the court rejected their call for a ban.

Image copyright UMP
Image caption The UMP's new logo

Mr Sarkozy says that the rebranding was a "rallying call to all who are distressed to see the Republic decline day after day and who want to stop this decline".

The former French president is expected to try for the presidency again in 2017, having lost to Francois Hollande in 2012.

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