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Hackers slow down UMP leader ballot

'External attack' has disrupted the vote for who will lead right-wing party, with Nicolas Sarkozy the favourite to win

Internet hackers have disrupted the ballot to elect a new leader of France's main opposition party, the UMP.

By Saturday morning, about 50,000 of the party's 268,000 members had cast their vote to choose who will lead the right-wing party in the run-up to the 2017 presidential election campaign.

But many voters complained that they were unable to access the website, which opened at 20.00 on Friday night. The UMP says an "external attack" is to blame and has filed a legal complaint against persons unknown.

UMP general secretary Luc Chatel told reporters: "We knew our systems would come under attack. The UMP website has been the victim of attacks for several days. It has slowed the vote down a bit, but everything is running normally now."

Five candidates are in the running to become the next head of the UMP, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is the favourite.

He will vote in person at a polling station in Paris on Saturday morning and the winner should be known at about 20.30 on Saturday night.

Another candidate, former agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire, has received a warning after his campaign team left thousands of voicemail messages with voters a few minutes after polls opened.

Meanwhile a survey out today shows 68 per cent of French people fear the UMP's days are numbered and that the party cannot continue in its current form.

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