An election aimed at giving France’s main opposition party a strong leader and filling the vacuum left by the political retirement of former center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy yielded confusion, acrimony and division, with both candidates continuing to claim victory a day after the vote. The Union pour un Mouvement Populaire appeared split after former Prime Minister François Fillon said Sunday evening he won the election with a short lead of 224 votes, adding that he was “serenely” waiting for official results. His rival, UMP’s secretary-general Jean-François Copé, made a similar claim, saying, “Militants have given me a majority of their votes and therefore elected me president of UMP.”
The head of the party commission in charge of organizing the election, Patrice Gélard, said Monday that his team had resumed the vote count after a break overnight and hoped to announce official results during the day. Several UMP heavyweights said the botched election could hurt the party.
“We’re today in a deplorable situation,” former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, who served as foreign and defense minister in the administration of Mr. Sarkozy, told French television. “The existence of UMP is at stake.”
Supporters of Messrs. Fillon and Copé both accused the other side of vote irregularities and said they would lodge complaints. An estimated 60% of UMP’s roughly 300,000 car-bearing members voted Sunday, party officials said.
UMP members were invited to elect their leader for the first time since the conservative movement was created a decade ago. The party is aiming to reinvigorate itself after Mr. Sarkozy distanced himself from politics following his election defeat in May.
Full Article: Vote Divides French Opposition – WSJ.com.