Paris: Conservative French presidential frontrunner Francois Fillon held a final rally in Paris today as he seeks to clinch the nomination for the rightwing Republicans in a primary this weekend.
Fillon, whose surge has taken commentators and pollsters by surprise, gave an assured performance in a televised debate yesterday against his centrist rival, long-time favourite Alain Juppe.
Fifty-seven per cent of viewers judged Fillon to have been the most convincing, according to an independent poll for the BFMTV television channel of 908 people who followed the nearly two-hour exchange.
A total of 8.5 million people tuned in to hear the two ex-prime ministers stress their differences on public sector cuts, relations between France and Russia, and their views on multiculturalism.
Today, Fillon held a rally in Paris where he hoped to draw up to 10,000 people, while Juppe was campaigning in the eastern city of Nancy.
Both men are positioning themselves against the expected rivals in next year's election, notably the resurgent far-right leader Marine Le Pen, as well as a Socialist party candidate and independents.
"I think I am best placed with my programme to beat Marine Le Pen," Juppe said today, referring to the nationalist and anti-immigration boss of the National Front.