Former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe were seen qualifying for a second round runoff of France's conservative primaries on Sunday, first partial results of the vote showed, in what would be a major upset for ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to results based on 2,912 polling stations out of a total 10,228, Fillon was seen gathering 42.8% of the votes, Juppe 26% and Sarkozy 24.4%.
Organizers of the contest for the Les Republicains party and its centre-right allies had warned ahead of the vote that partial results may not be representative of final results, with votes in rural areas being counted first.
"I want to say that these are very provisional results," the election's organiser Thierry Solere told reporters.
Pollsters suggest that the chosen centre-right nominee is likely to make the Elysee Palace in 2017's presidential election.
Unless one of the candidates gets 50% of votes in the final count of Sunday's first round, there will be a head-to-head run-off vote between the top two candidates next Sunday Nov. 27.
Juppe, a moderate conservative campaigning on an inclusive, "happy identity" platform, had for months been ahead in polls.
But over the past week the contest has been transformed into a tight race between Juppe, Sarkozy and Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012.
Sarkozy has sought to tap into populist sentiment while Fillon is proposing tough measures to shake up the economy.