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FRANCE

Sarkozy tipped to win leadership of French right political party

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy tipped to lead right-wing UMP party.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy tipped to lead right-wing UMP party. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy was on Saturday tipped to win the leadership of the right-wing UMP in party elections against main rival Bruno Le Maire – a former minister and senior party figure – and the MP Hervé Mariton. 

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268,000 UMP members are invited to vote to choose the conservative party’s new president. Members began voting by internet on Friday night and polls close at 8:00pm on Saturday.

Pollsters expect Sarkozy to sail through the election despite his much-heralded return to politics largely seen as having fallen flat, with a series of legal cases continuing to dog him.

At 8:15am on Saturday, approximately 50,000 members – around 20% of the voters – had voted, announced UMP Secretary General Luc Chatel on French radio France info.

The UMP filed a complaint during the night of Friday to Saturday against these cyber-attacks but the voting should not be too compromised, said Chatel.

Being UMP's leader is seen as a potential springboard back into high office. However, a victory for Sarkozy does not guarantee him a shot at toppling Hollande in the 2017 presidential elections.

The former president also has many rivals in the deeply split party and the real challenge will be when Sarkozy will have to fight off party heavyweights at UMP primaries in 2016.

Chief among these is his former colleague Alain Juppe, a popular politician and one-time prime minister who served as defence and then foreign minister under Sarkozy’s presidency.
 

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