Sarkozy faces party crisis over far-right vote

Nicolas Sarkozy’s authority was weakened on Tuesday by divisions within his centre-right party over whether supporters should vote Socialist to stop the far-right Front National winning a parliamentary seat in a by-election.

The Front National (FN) won the first round of voting in the Doubs constituency in eastern France, with the governing Socialists in second place. Mr Sarkozy’s UMP was eliminated.

In the past, mainstream parties have set aside their differences to endorse whichever of their candidates was standing against the FN in the second and final round.

However, Mr Sarkozy stopped short of doing so, to the dismay of many party supporters. Several other senior figures in the UMP had already said they would vote Socialist if faced with such a choice, but the former president reportedly wants to avoid alienating FN voters whom he hopes to persuade to back his bid to return to power in 2017…