French conservative primary run-off begins

Final opinion polls projected frontrunner Fillon to seize a major lead over veteran Juppe.

French conservative primary run-off begins

Paris: The decisive round of French right-centre parties primary started on Sunday and it will send one of the two conservatives, Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe, into the presidential race.

Final opinion polls projected frontrunner Fillon to seize a major lead over veteran Juppe who had been long dominating the vote intentions before the "ultra-liberal" contender reported a surprise lead last Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Pollsters also predicted the winner of US-style competition, the first ever held by French conservatives, will occupy the Elysee Palace next year due to sliding popularity of the Socialist ruling camp and a lack of majority supporting the far-right National Front party.

An Opinionway poll released on Friday showed Fillon would win the conservative nomination with 61 per cent of votes versus 39 per cent for his rival.

"I await the voters` verdict. Now it is they who speak and not the candidates," Fillon said after casting his ballot in Paris seventh district.

The former Prime Minister vowed to put ailing French economy on track thanks "to more radical project" which include raising retirement age and reducing public expenditure by cutting half million public service jobs in addition to undo the 35-hour working week to make the French working longer.

Juppe, 71, who has served as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, portrayed himself as a modern centrist with moderate political rhetoric.

"I made a beautiful campaign. I defended my ideas till the end and it will work. Let`s wait (the result) tonight," the moderate politician said after voting in the southwestern town Bordeaux where he is the mayor from 2006.

The latest figures released by the primary organisers showed morning turnout rising by 13 percent than the figure for the same period in the first round. About 1.270 million voters have cast their ballots by noon.

More than 4.2 million people voted in the first round.

Voting opens at 10,228 polling stations across France at 8 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. The first partial results may emerge at 8.30 p.m.

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