Socialist leadership battle drags on

After early official tallies pointed to victory for Martine Aubry, numerous recounts have revived the hopes of Ségolène Royal's supporters. Committee meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday face the difficult task of calling a final result.


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Every passing hour makes the French Socialist Party’s leadership race look a little more like the Florida vote in the 2000 US presidential election.


Saturday morning, official results for the second round gave Martine Aubry a 42-vote lead over Ségolène Royal, out of a total of 134,784 ballots. But the numerous corrections and protests registered since make it nearly impossible to keep an accurate count.

A recount committee is due to meet on Monday to establish a new definitive result. The party’s national council will then meet to ratify it Tuesday evening. In the meantime, those looking to determine who will lead France's main opposition party will need a good calculator.

Repeated corrections

Recounts in the northern city of Lille, in the eastern Moselle area and in the overseas territory of New Caledonia may yield Royal a handful of extra votes.

In the Nord region, an Aubry stronghold, around 20 votes were reportedly miscalculated – but her supporters have yet to admit it.

In Moselle, local party officials said they had mistakenly awarded 12 votes to Aubry. If confirmed, the ensuing correction would further narrow the gap to a mere 18 votes.

New Caledonia’s ballots were not included in Saturday’s official results. Their addition will reportedly bring three extra votes to Aubry and 13 to Royal.

Other recounts could tilt the final result either way.

Legal action considered

Both candidates spoke Saturday evening. Aubry affirmed that she would become the leader “of all Socialist Party members”. Two hours later, Royal replied in a TV interview: “It is very strange to see a candidate proclaim herself a winner while a number of vote counts are still being examined,” she said.

Two aides of the former presidential candidate, Manuel Valls and Jean-Pierre Mignard, warned that they considered legal action. If they file a lawsuit, the release of official results Tuesday may not be enough to heal the party’s deep divisions.

Despite outgoing leader François Hollande’s calls for “individual responsibility and the respect of ordinary procedures,” first-round leadership candidate Benoît Hamon expressed deep worries: “The situation is serious, even dangerous. The unity of the party is questioned. So is its existence,” he said.

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