Lille Mayor and former labor minister Martine Aubry narrowly beat out former presidential candidate Segolene Royal to lead France's Socialists. Royal's aides said she would dispute the vote.
Aubry won the party election by just 42 votes
Aides to Royal said Saturday, Nov. 22, that she would not accept the results of Friday's election that showed her losing the race to head the French Socialist Party by a handful of votes.
French radio reported that former party spokesman Julien Dray said Royal was disputing the result because of apparent irregularities in some regions.
"For us, there are problems (with the results)," Dray was quoted as saying. "Some things don't make sense ... The only solution is to hold another vote."
Final results of the vote announced early Saturday morning showed Aubry edging out Royal by 42 votes of the 137,000 cast.
If the results are confirmed, the 58-year-old Aubry would replace Francois Hollande, Royal's former partner, who is stepping down after leading the party for 11 years. Both Aubry and Hollande rejected the calls to have the party's 232,000 members vote again.
Council to resolve dispute
Royal's aides say the party election was tarnished by voting irregularities
Instead, Hollande announced Saturday that the Socialists would convene their national council to resolve the dispute, which threatens to split France's second-strongest political party into factions.
Friday's election was the culmination of a bitter campaign that pitted Royal, 55, against the Socialist old guard, such as former prime ministers Laurent Fabius and Lionel Jospin and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, all of whom supported Aubry.
The acrimony continued up to the last minute, with aides to Aubry claiming victory well before half the votes were counted. Royal supporters then accused their opponents of trying to influence the vote in France's overseas territories, where the voting ended much later because of the time difference.
At one point, Evry Mayor Manuel Valls, a Royal advisor, told supporters: "We will not let this victory be stolen from us."
First woman to lead party
Whoever is finally declared the official winner, she will become the first woman to lead the Socialist Party. She will also have the monumental task of healing the deep wounds and bad blood the campaign has caused.
In addition, the party will have to dispel the suspicion of voter fraud to gain credibility among the electorate and mount a strong challenge to President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 presidential election.
In 2007, Royal became the first Frenchwoman to make it to the second round of the presidential election, but she was soundly beaten by Sarkozy.