Paris: France’s former prime minister Alain Juppe is defending a shrinking lead in the race to win the conservatives’ nomination for next year’s presidential election, two opinion polls showed on Thursday.
Whoever wins the two-round primary on November 20 and November 27 has a strong chance of becoming France’s next president.
Juppe, 71, has for months been favourite. But he has been struggling to fire up voters and has this week been losing some ground to his chief rival, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and another ex-prime minister, Francois Fillon.
A poll by Cevipof and Ipsos-Sopra Steria showed Juppe scoring 36% of votes in Sunday’s opening round of the Les Republicains party primary, five percentage points less than in October. It showed Sarkozy, on 29%, would qualify for a head-to-head second round run-off against Juppe a week later.
Juppe was seen beating Sarkozy in the runoff with 57% of votes to his rival’s 43%, with his lead still comfortable but three points smaller than last month.
Fillon, whose potential first-round score has risen ten points in just one month, has become a possible threat to the frontrunners but was not seen making it to the two-way run-off.
The seven contenders in Sunday’s first round of Les Republicains party primary were set to face off in the last of three televised debates later on Thursday.
Socialist President Francois Hollande is struggling with low poll ratings and has yet to say whether he will run for a second term next spring. The opinion poll confirmed the widely held expectation that the left would be out of contention, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen would be the likely opponent of any centre-right candidate in the decisive run-off in May.
The internet-based survey was based on more than 18,000 voters, with the questions on the primaries narrowed to 1,337 people certain to take part.
A separate Ifop-Fiducial poll for Sud Radio showed Juppe getting 31% of votes in the first round of the primaries on Sunday, versus 30% for Sarkozy and 27% for Fillon.
That poll was carried out online November 10-17 with 744 people certain to vote in the primaries. Juppe‘s rating is down two points since a survey carried out October 31-November 14, Sarkozy’s unchanged and Fillon up seven points.
Juppe would win the second round versus Sarkozy with 57% of the votes, the poll showed.