Sarkozy seeks donations on Facebook for hard-up party

Former French President Nicolas
Sarkozy has asked for donations in a
Facebook appeal to help his cash-
strapped conservative UMP party.
The opposition UMP suffered a big blow
earlier when election auditors billed it
for 11m euros (£9.4m; $14.3m).
It was asked to repay state funds
advanced for Mr Sarkozy's 2012
presidential campaign, on the grounds it
had breached spending limits.
Mr Sarkozy said the "unprecedented
situation" was a threat to pluralism.
He said on Facebook that it "threatens
the party that must prepare the really
necessary alternative to socialism".
"I have to take on my responsibilities by
committing myself to work towards the
freedom of democratic expression in our
country. I am asking you to help me by
mobilising, like me, towards this end."
According to the Constitutional Council,
which rules on electoral disputes, the
UMP overspent by 2.1%.
Mr Sarkozy resigned from the Council in
protest at the move on Thursday.
As a former French president, he
automatically became a member of the
constitutional body last year.
Hard times for UMP
Party leader Jean-Francois Cope launched
a national fundraising campaign after the
ruling, which leading centre-right daily
Le Figaro described as a "hard blow" for
the UMP's finances.
Since its defeat at the presidential and
parliamentary elections, the party is
believed to have further lost support
because of a bitter party leadership
battle.
French parties receive grants from the
government in proportion to their
strength in parliament.
Under electoral law Mr Sarkozy would
normally be entitled to have 47.5% of his
total campaign spending reimbursed, the
AFP news agency reports.
It is the first time a candidate reaching
the second round of a presidential
election has been refused that
reimbursement.
Satirical blogger Nain Portekoi tweeted
an image of the UMP's tree logo looking
withered in response to the news.
The UMP was allotted 22.5m euros for
Mr Sarkozy's unsuccessful contest with
Socialist challenger Francois Hollande
and was found by the Constitutional
Council to have overspent by 466,118
euros.
To ensure an even playing field, France
caps election funding, bans large
donations and subsidises campaign
spending.