A day after more than 80 percent of the members of his conservative UMP approved the proposed name change to "the Republicans," Sarkozy used an hour-long speech to a party congress in Paris to rebuff criticism from leftist opponents, some of whom have filed a challenge against the move. Critics see it as an attempt to claim the term for one party alone in France, where people from all political stripes routinely refer to their country as "the Republic."
"I would ask of those on the left who want to deny us the name Republican, what have you done for the Republic?" the former president told a cheering crowd of supporters.
"To those who accuse us of confiscating the Republic, I want to respond that if they had not betrayed it, abandoned it, degraded it, we would not have to restore it today," he added, referring to the policies of the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande, the man who ousted Sarkozy from power in the 2012 election.Je suis républicain. Appelez-moi Nick Reagan.