World

France: Sarkozy set to take over conservative party _ but can he regain the presidency?

  • FILE - In this Nov.22, 2014 file photo, France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate for the presidency of the French right-wing main opposition party UMP gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting,  in Bordeaux, southwestern France. Sarkozy is the frontrunner as French conservatives choose their new leader over the next two days, a crucial step in his bid to win back the country's presidency. (AP Photo Bob Edme, File)

    FILE - In this Nov.22, 2014 file photo, France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate for the presidency of the French right-wing main opposition party UMP gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting, in Bordeaux, southwestern France. Sarkozy is the frontrunner as French conservatives choose their new leader over the next two days, a crucial step in his bid to win back the country's presidency. (AP Photo Bob Edme, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Nov.13, 2014 file photo, Bruno Le Maire, candidate for the presidency of the French right-wing main opposition party UMP, speaks during a meeting in Marseille, southern France, Thursday, Nov.13, 2014. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the frontrunner as French conservatives choose their new leader over the next two days, a crucial step in his bid to win back the country's presidency. Inscription reads: Renewal is Bruno. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)

    FILE - In this Nov.13, 2014 file photo, Bruno Le Maire, candidate for the presidency of the French right-wing main opposition party UMP, speaks during a meeting in Marseille, southern France, Thursday, Nov.13, 2014. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the frontrunner as French conservatives choose their new leader over the next two days, a crucial step in his bid to win back the country's presidency. Inscription reads: Renewal is Bruno. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)  (The Associated Press)

Nicolas Sarkozy is the frontrunner as French conservatives choose their new leader over the next two days, a crucial step in his bid to win back the country's presidency.

France's main opposition party, the UMP, is holding elections Friday and Saturday for a new leader. The party has struggled with money problems and fierce internal rivalries since Sarkozy lost the presidency to Socialist Francois Hollande in 2012.

Sarkozy is widely expected to beat out challengers Bruno Le Maire and Herve Mariton in the leadership vote.

Sarkozy had a high profile abroad as president in 2007-2012, and drew extra attention for marrying former supermodel Carla Bruni while in office.

But he remains a divisive figure at home, facing legal troubles and tensions over the resurgent far right.