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As its leaders fight, France's conservative party suffers

Experts say that infighting within the conservative UMP, which was ousted from the presidency in May, could undermine its standing with the French public even further.

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An empty podium is seen at the headquarters of the UMP political party in Paris before a news conference Thursday. For the past 12 days, the UMP has been riven by a leadership crisis that is likely to harm the party's future political prospects.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

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The crisis plaguing France's right-wing opposition UMP party seems nowhere near over, after several attempts in the last few days at mediation between the two men vying for UMP leadership failed. But even as the negotiations between Jean-François Copé and François Fillon go back to square one, analysts and politicians agree on one thing: It is clear that the UMP will not come out of this unscathed.

Mr. Copé and Mr. Fillon are fighting to succeed former French President Nicolas Sarkozy as leader of the right wing. The UMP, France's main right-wing party, held an internal election on Nov. 18 that both men claim they won. But no resolution appears to be in sight, despite efforts by Mr. Sarkozy, former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, and various UMP lawmakers to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Copé, who was declared the winner of the election by two commissions of the UMP, on Wednesday ruled out a plan for holding a referendum asking the party base whether it wants to vote anew for a party president after a disputed election. Copé had floated the proposal on Tuesday on the condition that Fillon give up on his project of creating a separate right-wing opposition group in the lower chamber of parliament. But after Fillon went ahead with his parliamentary group, Copé withdrew his support for a referendum.

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