Published November 19, 2012
PARIS – Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative party is in disarray after a vote for its next leader produced a razor-thin result — and both candidates claimed victory.
Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon and former Budget Minister Jean-Francois Cope were grappling for control of the Union for a Popular Movement party in Sunday's balloting. The dispute over the winner has extended into Monday.
The winner will lead opposition to President Francois Hollande's Socialist leadership. In the spring, after a decade in power, the UMP lost both the presidency and control of the National Assembly to Socialists.
Sarkozy remains a behind-the-scenes presence. Fillon is seen mostly as an even-tempered moderate, while former UMP leader Cope has reached out to the far right and led the legislative effort that banned face-covering Muslim veils.