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As its leaders fight, France's conservative party suffers

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Sarkozy has threatened Fillon and Copé to publicly say that both are unfit for running a major political party if they fail to end the gridlock by Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported Friday, citing anonymous sources within the UMP.

With the stalemate still in place, the UMP looks set to suffer politically, at least in the short term.

Benoist Apparu, a UMP lawmaker in the French National Assembly and a junior minister during Sarkozy’s tenure, says the future looks grim for the UMP, although it doesn’t mean a right-wing candidate couldn’t win the next presidential election in 2017.

“Does it jeopardize 2017? I think it’s going to be very complicated but I wouldn’t go that far," Mr. Apparu says. But "we will have a hard time getting back on our feet before 2014," when the next local elections occur, he adds.

Polls show the UMP infighting has had a devastating impact on the image of both Copé and Fillon among the public.

A Nov. 23 survey by the polling group BVA Opinion found the popularity of Copé had plunged by 22 percentage points since early November while Fillon’s decreased by 11 percentage points. BVA Opinion found Copé was popular among 26 percent of those surveyed, down from 48 percent in early November, while Fillon was popular among 52 percent of those surveyed, down from 63 percent.

Céline Bracq, the associate director of BVA Opinion, says the decrease in Copé’s popularity is “huge” while that of Fillon is “fairly spectacular,” adding that the image of the two men could continue to worsen as the crisis drags on.

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