France's opposition Socialists re-elects leader

France's opposition Socialists re-elected Francois Hollande as their leader to unify the divided party in the run-up to 2007 presidential elections, initial results showed Friday. Hollande, who had no challengers, was elected for a fourth term with about 80 percent of votes, party spokesman Julien Dray said. Party leader since 1997, Hollande is often criticized for lacking charisma. "There was no suspense because he was the only candidate, but members came back out and voted massively," Dray told LCI television. The Socialists have been searching for direction since losing general elections in 2002, ending five years of uneasy power-sharing with center-right President Jacques Chirac.

The party was thrown into disarray by disagreemnt among its leaders over whether to vote "yes" or "no" to the draft European Union constitution in a May referendum. Hollande pushed for a "yes," but French voters, and the majority of Socialists, rejected the document.

After long debate at a conference this weekend, the Socialists agreed on a united platform, a truce to ease differences that risked splitting the party. The Socialists will not designate their presidential nominee for at least a year, reports the AP. I.L.

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