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Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy resigns from France's Constitutional Council

Reuters/Stéphane Mahé

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has resigned from the country’s top constitutional body, after it upheld a ruling that he had exceeded campaign spending limits. The ex-leader will lose out on a reimbursement of around 10 million euros.

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Following the Consitutional Council’s decision, Sarkozy announced on Thursday night that he was resigning immediately from his position in order to “regain his freedom of speech” and react to the decision.

France’s financial watchdog showed that Sarkozy exceeded spending limits during last year’s election campaign by 2.1 percent, filing nearly 23 million euros in expenses.

Sarkozy will lose out on a reimbursement of 47.5 percent of his total campaign spending, which he would normally be eligible for under election financing laws.

He will also be obligated to return 150,000 euros, which the state advanced to him during the campaign.

This is the first time that a candidate reaching the second round of presidential elections has had his campaign expenses rejected.

Sarkozy announced on his Facebook page on Friday that the Council’s decision put his centre-right UMP party “in peril” and called for the public to mobilise themselves in his defense.

The UMP party is already facing financial troubles, as it sees its number of legislative lawmakers drop. Political parties normally receive grants from the government based on their strength in parliament.

UMP party leader Jean-François Copé has called for a “massive national contribution” following Sarkozy’s resignation and said that the Council’s ruling would seriously affect the resources available to the party.

Copé has solidified his role as party leader, after UMP activists voted this past week to keep him in the position. Meanwhile, rumours have been flying that Sarkozy intends to make a political return.

Much depends on the outcome of several trials in which Sarkozy is implicated: a campaign funding scandal involving France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, one involving former Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, and in the Karachi affair.

Sarkozy has always maintained that he is innocent in each case.
 

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