Former President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as the leader of his center-right party on Saturday evening in a widely expected victory that could serve as a steppingstone for his 2017 bid to become president of France again.
Mr. Sarkozy lost to François Hollande, the current Socialist president, in the 2012 general election.
While Mr. Sarkozy has retained the favor of the rank and file of his party, the Union for a Popular Movement, his comeback this fall has not swayed the wider French electorate, despite Mr. Hollande’s unpopularity and the inability of the governing Socialists to fix the economy.
The preliminary results were announced late Saturday at the headquarters of the party, known as the U.M.P. for the initials of its name in French. With 64.5 percent of the vote, Mr. Sarkozy pulled far ahead of the two other candidates, Bruno Le Maire and Hervé Mariton, U.M.P. representatives in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of Parliament. Mr. Le Maire won about 29.2 percent of the vote, and Mr. Mariton about 6.3 percent.