Sunday, January 24, 1999 Published at 19:07 GMT
French National Front splits
Mr Megret's faction faces some lengthy court battles
France's far-right National Front has split in two after the leader of a rebel faction claimed victory in his battle to seize control from the party's founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The move leaves France with two National Fronts, each determined to put up candidates for the European Parliament elections in June.
And it could start a series of legal battles as the two factions fight over the right to the party's name, insignia, state campaign subsidies and large Paris headquarters.
France's National Front, which is Western Europe's biggest extreme-right party, currently wins about 15% of the vote in national elections.
Mr Megret, 49, a former party organiser, was kicked out of the National Front in December after calling for a conference to hold a leadership election.
Mr Le Pen branded the move "a putsch and a plot" and refused to attend, saying: "I will not abandon the ship's helm to a handful of perfidious lieutenants and quartermasters."
Mr Megret told about 2,000 followers at the two day meeting that Mr Le Pen - whom he did not specifically name - had effectively withdrawn himself from the leadership.
"A second candidate had asserted himself but he didn't show up and has thus withdrawn probably because he feared the democratic nature of this vote," Mr Megret said. "So be it, we'll make do without him.''
Delegates at the meeting in Marignane, southern France, are also electing a new central committee and political bureau.
The run-up to the split has been marked by an increasingly vitriolic slanging match between the rivals.
Mr Le Pen, 70, who is spending the weekend at home in Paris, accused Mr Megret of being power hungry and repeatedly mocked his modest physical stature.
"Even if it's difficult my friend, try to put your feet on the floor," he said. "There's no dishonour in being small, but there's no point in acting bigger than you are."
Mr Megret declared his former boss had ceased to be a driving force in the party, adding: "Le Pen is a diva who has botched his exit."