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French public split on whether Republican candidates François Fillon or Alain Juppé would make a better president

With populist candidates and causes seemingly in the ascendant in the West right now, all eyes are on France’s 2017 presidential election where Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far right party Front National, stands a very real chance of winning.

As the likely potential candidates for France's left wing Socialist Party are trailing in the polls, the final round of the presidential election is expected to be between Le Pen and the candidate of France’s centre-right party, The Republicans.

Tomorrow sees the second and final round of primary voting to choose that candidate. Standing are two former prime ministers: François Fillon, who served as prime minister under Nicholas Sarkozy from 2007-2012; and Alain Juppé, prime minister from 1995-1997 and more recently minister for foreign and European affairs in Sarkozy’s government.

New YouGov research finds that, of the two, the French public believe that Fillon is the best-placed to defeat Marine Le Pen. He is backed by 38% of people, compared to 30% who believe that Juppé would be more likely to triumph against the Front National candidate.

Fillon is the unexpected frontrunner in the race, having gathered an extraordinary 44% of the vote in the first round of primary voting. According to Alexis Brezet, political editor of Le Figaro, Fillon benefited from anti-Sarkozy sentiment (Sarkozy himself was eliminated in the first round of the primary).

By a relatively small margin the French public also think that Fillon would make a better president than Juppé, although opinion is much more closely split, at 33% and 29% respectively.

For those betting on Fillon averting a Le Pen victory, take note: he is also the favoured candidate of Front National voters. Fillon has said that France must never become multi-cultural and is seen as close to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Fully 44% of Front National voters think that Fillon would be a better president than Juppé – just 7% think the reverse.

Fillon is also by far the most preferred candidate of voters of The Republicans, with 67% saying he would make a better president than Juppé. By contrast, France’s centrist and left wing voters prefer Juppé.

Photo: PA

See the full results here

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