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Former French PM Fillon gains ground as primary nears


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Paris, Nov 18 (IANS) Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has gained some ground at the final debate ahead of Sunday’s first round of the conservative party’s primary elections.

According to a poll, 33 per cent of the 1,012 voters interviewed saw Fillon as the most convincing against 32 per cent for Alain Juppe, the polls’ favourite to win presidential election next year, and 18 per cent for ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, Xinhua news agency reported.

Despite sliding support in a tight primary race, Juppe maintained the lead, according to the poll.

Among the three candidates of France’s Conservative Party and its allies, whoever wins the party’s two-round primaries slated for November 20 and 27, will have a strong chance of becoming the country’s next president, due to deep divisions in the Left and the public’s opposition to a far-right President.

Shortly before the poll, Fillon urged voters to make up their own minds.

"We French people are a proud people, and we do not like to be dictated our choices, so do not be afraid next Sunday to contradict polls and media that had already arranged everything for you. Choose to vote for your convictions," he said.

"I have always told the truth to the French people. I have a programme that is not easy, but it is the only one that gives the French their freedom to work, to succeed, to raise their children in accordance with French values," he said.

The presidential election will take place on April 23 and May 7.

According to the country’s pollsters, the presidential favourite would be a conservative and easily unseat the incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande and beat far-rightist leader Marine Le Pen.

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