PARIS (Reuters) - Former prime minister Alain Juppe has widened his lead over rival Nicolas Sarkozy to win the center-right's nomination for France's 2017 presidential elections, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.
Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, initially narrowed the gap with Juppe when he launched his campaign in August on a law-and-order platform. But his hardline strategy seems to be backfiring as the primaries vote nears.
Juppe is seen winning 41 percent of the votes in the first round on Nov. 20, up four points from last month, while Sarkozy loses three points to 30 percent, the poll carried out by Ipsos pollsters and the Cevipof research institute showed.
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None of the five other, lesser known candidates would attract much votes, meaning Sarkozy and Juppe are all but certain to face each other in the two-person run-off on Nov. 27.
The poll forecasts that Juppe, who was prime minister from 1995 to 1997 and held the posts of foreign minister and defense minister after that, will win that run-off easily with 60 percent of the votes, up 4 points from last month's survey.
The winner of the primaries has a good chance of prevailing in the presidential election in May, considering Socialist President Francois Hollande's deep unpopularity and the divisions amid left-wing candidates.
The winner's presumed opponent in the second round run-off would most likely not be a Socialist but far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who - despite her growing popularity - is seen as unable to muster a majority nationwide.
Anyone willing to pay 2 euros and sign a declaration that they share the values of the center-right can take part in the primaries, which are not restricted to members of Sarkozy and Juppe's conservative Republicans party.
The poll shows that Juppe will benefit from strong support from centrist and even left-wing voters who will take part, with over 90 percent backing him.
Sarkozy is slightly ahead of Juppe amid Republicans voters, with 51 percent versus 49 percent for Juppe.
The same survey showed only 4 percent of voters are satisfied with Hollande, whose popularity has been further hit by the publication of a damaging book in which he is quoted as calling judges "cowards.".
The poll was conducted on Oct 14-19 among 17,047 voters. The part on the primaries only takes into account the 1,217 people certain to go vote.
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Tom Heneghan)