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EghtesadOnline: Either former prime minister Alain Juppe or ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, both old foxes of French politics, will win the conservative party's ticket to run for president next year, with Juppe holding the lead, a survey showed on Thursday.

An internet-based survey of more than 18,000 voters showed Juppe, 71, favorite to become the next president, winning the party primary by a comfortable margin against Sarkozy, his closest rival.

The poll by Cevipof and Ipsos-Sopra Steria showed Juppe scoring 36 percent of votes in Sunday's opening round of the Les Republicains party primary, with Sarkozy, at 29 percent, qualifying for a head-to-head second round runoff against Juppe a week later, Reuters reported.

Juppe was seen comfortably beating Sarkozy, 61, in the Nov. 27 primary runoff, with 57 percent of votes to Sarkozy's 43 percent.

Most other surveys, some based on much narrower samples of voters, have also shown Juppe a clear winner there.

Francois Fillon, another ex-prime minister whose potential score has risen 10 points in just one month, remained a threat, albeit still remote, to the frontrunners.

The poll showed him scoring 22 percent, which he would need to largely improve on to make the runoff at one of his rivals' expense.

Juppe is also favorite to win the presidential election itself next May, in a likely second-round run-off against far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

The Cevipof poll confirmed the widely-held expectation that the left would be eliminated as a real force in the 2017 and Le Pen would be the likely opponent of any center-right candidate in the final vote.

The seven contenders in Sunday's first round of Les Republicains party primary were set to face off in the last of three TV debates later on Thursday.

While Juppe, prime minister 20 years ago, remains the poll favorite both for the primary and the presidential election itself, Donald Trump's surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election has jolted what once looked like a cakewalk for Juppe. Fillon's late surge has added to the uncertainty.

Former economy minister Emmanuel Macron is seen getting 10 percent of the votes in a scenario where both Hollande and Juppe are running, appearing to steal 3 to 5 points off Juppe, 1 to 3 points off Hollande, and even 2 points off Le Pen.

Nicolas Sarkozy France presidential election Alain Juppe