The stand-off between Lille Mayor Martine Aubry and former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal over the leadership of the Socialist Party could end up in court as both Royal and Aubry followers said they would take legal action.
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The fight over who should lead France's stricken Socialist party looks likely to end in the courts after supporters of Segolene Royal said on Sunday they would seek legal action over her razor-thin defeat.
The Socialists announced at the weekend that Royal, their candidate at last year's presidential election, lost an internal ballot of party members by just 42 votes.
Martine Aubry, the woman who pioneered the now-defunct 35-hour week, has claimed victory in the race and urged France's warring opposition party to rally around her.
But Royal refused to accept the result and her advisors said numerous discrepancies were emerging from voting lists around the country, meaning a new ballot had to be held.
"All the information we have shows that there were errors, irregularities and cheating. They wanted to rob us of this victory," said parliamentarian Manuel Valls.
"A case will inevitably be brought before the magistrates. We can't avoid it," he told Canal + television, pointing to allegations of forgery in the northern French city of Lille, where Aubry is mayor.
The savage infighting on the left is proving a gift for President Nicolas Sarkozy, distracting his opponents at a time when the economy is faltering and unemployment rising.
"We are witnessing the implosion of the Socialist party," Sarkozy's ruling centre-right UMP party wrote in one of four statements on the subject sent to the media on Sunday morning.
"Indestructible hatred reigns," it added, with barely disguised glee.
The Socialist party's outgoing leader Francois Hollande, who is the estranged partner of Royal and father of her four children, has said the group will review various complaints over the vote on Monday before certifying the result on Tuesday.
One Socialist polling station has admitted that it inadvertently told party headquarters that Aubry won 12 votes more than she actually did. Another voting station said its votes in favour of Royal were never counted in the final tally.
However, other discrepancies appeared to favour Aubry, the daughter of former European Commission President Jacques Delors. The Rue89 news website reported that 19 votes for her from overseas territories were never registered.
In all, some 134,700 valid votes were cast out of a total Socialist party membership of 233,000.
Royal's camp say that even if the review of the ballot puts their champion in the lead, they will organise a fresh poll.
"The spectacle we are making of ourselves is terrible ... Why should we accept it?" Valls said.
Refounded by former President Francois Mitterrand in 1971, the French Socialist party has been riven by deep ideological and personal hatreds for more than decade.
It has not won a presidential election since 1988 or a parliamentary election since 1997 and its continued feuding risks making it very hard for the left to wrest power from Sarkozy when his term in office comes up for renewal in 2012.
Date created : 2008-11-24