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Sarkozy wins UMP leadership vote by less than expected

Ex-president passes first barrier to Elysee Palace return

FRENCH former president Nicolas Sarkozy didn't exactly get a warm embrace from his party on his return to public life on Saturday.

Mr Sarkozy won a race for leader of France's main conservative party - but with a margin of victory smaller than predicted.

His victory as chief of the Union for a Popular Movement was a first step on his road to a far bigger prize.

He hopes to return to the Elysee Palace in the 2017 presidential election, five years after he failed in his re-election bid against Socialist Francois Hollande.

But with no victory speech, a few sober lines on Twitter and a subdued "of course, I am happy" to a TV reporter, Mr Sarkozy's gestures suggested he was somewhat chastened by the result.

His showing was well below that of the 2004 leadership contest, which he won with 85 per cent, polling only 64.5 per cent this time.

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