Elections for France's official Muslim council on Sunday put a Moroccan-backed mosque network on top in a poll overshadowed by a boycott by its former leaders from the Algerian-backed Paris Grand Mosque.
The Rally of French Muslims (RMF) took 43.2 percent of the vote, ahead of the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) at 30.2 percent and a Turkish mosque network at 12.7 percent, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) announced.
Various local groups made up the rest of the field.
The result put the RMF, which enjoyed strong support from Rabat during its campaign, in a strong position to win the post of CFCM president for the first time in another vote on June 22.
Several Muslim leaders said a new leadership should be able to free the CFCM to work on problems facing France's 5 million Muslims such as training imams, building mosques and organising haj pilgrimages to Mecca.
"This is a new beginning," said Haydar Demiryurek, CFCM secretary general and head of the Coordinating Committee of French Turkish Muslims.
The CFCM has been paralysed since its start in 2003 by rivalry between member groups and its leader Dalil Boubakeur, the Paris Grand Mosque rector imposed as president by the French government although his group placed third in the elections.
When the government declined to intervene this time, Boubakeur announced his group would boycott the election in protest against the ballot system that gives votes to mosque networks according to the floor space of their prayer rooms.
Anouar Kbibech, president of the RMF group that led the polls, said the new CFCM leadership would want to have Paris Grand Mosque group rejoin the council.
"The Paris Grand Mosque has great symbolic importance," he said, referring to the best-known mosque in France. "We will do everything we can to see it comes back."