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Sarkozy wins UMP leadership with eye on Elysee Palace

By Ians English

Paris, Nov 30: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy Saturday won the race to the leadership of crisis-hit conservative party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), a step crucial to bid for the presidency in 2017.

In a first test of his political comeback, Sarkozy won 64.5 percent of votes followed by his two former ministers Bruno Le Maire and Herve Mariton who collected 29.18 percent and 6.32 percent of votes respectively, Xinhua reported.

A total 155,851 of the party's 268,231 members casted their online votes which started Friday evening.

The vote was slowed by "organised" cyber attack on the election website Friday, said Luc Chatel, UMP secretary general, adding the party had lodged a complaint with Paris police.

"This vote represents a new start of our political family. We have to be united and to focus on seeking new solutions for France. With these two conditions we give back hope to our nationals," UMP new leader wrote on his Facebook account shortly after the results release.

The 59-year-old conservative leader proposed to reform the right-wing party, weakened by corruption and internal rifts, to create "a vast rally which will address all the French, without partisanship, beyond the traditional divisions which no longer correspond to any reality today".

With French President Francois Hollande's approval rating being at a record low on rising public anger over unfruitful policy, Sarkozy eyes with UMP leadership to book a ticket to the Elysee Palace in 2017, betting on his political credentials and dynamism which earned him in 2007 the highest popularity ratings of any leader since Charles de Gaulle.

However, the former president's political future remains uncertain and could be tainted by a series of corruption probe that could be a setback to his comeback after failing to win a second term in 2012.

Last July, the conservative politician had been placed under such a judicial probe for the second time for influence peddling. The first was in 2013 after being charged with taking financial advantages from the elderly French billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress of L'Oreal group. But magistrates later dropped the case against him.


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