The French Socialist party has been left in chaos following the narrow victory by Martine Aubry in the election for leadership.

Aubry won the election on November 21st by a wafer-thin majority of 42 votes, giving her 50.02 per cent of the vote against the 49.98 won by her rival Ségolène Royal.

The narrow win has prompted accusations of wrong-doing and calls for a recount by supporters of Royal.

“There was fraud, there was cheating,” said Royal’s close ally, Manuel Valls.

“The results of last night are profoundly in doubt.”

The results come at the end of a bitter leadership contest in which the popular Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë, one of Europe’s most high-profile gay politicians, was a contender.

Delanoë was initially a favourite for the role, outpolling Ségolène Royal in May 2008.

He was also backed by former leader François Hollande, Royal’s former partner and father of her four children.

Delanoë pulled out of the race this month as the contest became increasingly bitter, distancing himself from a campaign that the French media dubbed ‘le duel des dames’ to “avoid creating further confusion”.

The controversial win by Martine Aubry and the refusal by Royal and her supporters to accept her victory has left the PS gravely divided.

Hollande has expressed frustration at the candidates’ failure to come together:

“No one person is now in a position to be the sole leader of the Socialist Party,” he told French radio.

“This party can only be led if we unite.”

Following the exit of Delanoë from the race, Hollande supported the running of Aubry but has said of her narrow win.

“It’s not a victory which today enables her to have a majority in the Socialist Party,” he said.

“What is more, nobody has a majority in the Socialist Party, and that’s where the problem lies.”

Delanoë has also expressed concerns at the state of the party, saying: “the Socialist Party is gravely ill.”

With the PS currently in disarray, there is speculation about when and if they will recover.

The next bid for power comes in the 2012 presidential elections. Allies of the Paris Mayor have hinted he might prove the most credible candidate.

The Left does well in local government elections, but has not taken the Elysee Palace since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

Delanoe has proved to be a popular Mayor of Paris since we was first elected in 2001, with innovative ideas such as Paris Plage and a bike-hiring scheme proving popular with the city’s residents.

He famously announced his sexuality in a television interview in 1998.

The 58-year-old was re-elected earlier this year.

In May, speaking to journalists at the launch of his new book, which urges French Socialists to accept Blairite reforms to the economy, he rejected the assertion that outside of Paris a gay man would not be electable.

Nicolas Sarkozy won a solid 53% of the vote in the second round of the Presidential elections last May to Ms Royal’s to 47%.

The victory of right-wing Sarkozy meant that the chances of gay marriage becoming legal in France are greatly reduced.

The President spoke out against gay marriage throughout his campaign. Royal supported opening up marriage to same-sex couples.

A 2006 Ipsos survey shows that 62% of French voters support gay marriage, while 37% were opposed.

French same-sex couples who enter into Civil Solidarity Pacts already enjoy some of the rights that heterosexual married couples have, although couples are not able to adopt or have artificial insemination.