PARIS (Reuters) - Nicolas Sarkozy was elected leader of the French conservative UMP party on Saturday with 64.5 percent of votes cast, official results showed, a step towards becoming a presidential candidate in 2017 but a less convincing endorsement than some had hoped.
The last time the former president secured the UMP chairmanship, in 2004, he won 85 percent of the vote and went on to become the country's head of state from 2007 until 2012.
However, after a storming comeback in September, recent polls showed his popularity among members weakening. Some analysts had said he needed at least 70 percent this time to secure a position as UMP presidential candidate.
(Reporting by Gregory Blachier, Andrew Callus and Pauline Ades-Mevel; Editing by Louise Ireland)