June 30, 2016 / 11:32 AM / 2 years ago

France's Sarkozy overtakes rival Juppe in poll, eyes party primaries

PARIS (Reuters) - Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, long distanced in polls by rival Alain Juppe, is making a comeback amid party supporters, a survey showed, a sign the battle for Les Republicains’ presidential election nomination is more open than many thought.

Nicolas Sarkozy, head of France's Les Republicains political party and former French president, talks to journalists following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande (not pictured) after Britain's vote to leave the European Union, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Center-right supporters will vote in November to decide who will be their candidate in the 2017 presidential election to face the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen and a Socialist candidate, likely to be President Francois Hollande.

Sarkozy’s abrasive style and judicial woes had dogged his ratings for months, together with disappointment even among party sympathizers with his five years in office, from 2007 to 2012.

But his ratings amid Les Republicains jumped from 48 to 65 percent in a month, a TNS Sofres poll showed on Thursday, while Juppe lost his pole position, with his rating down 14 points to 52 percent.

Though not officially a candidate, Sarkozy has been traveling through France over the past months, giving speeches and signing copies of a book he published earlier this year

Juppe is still much more popular than Sarkozy among voters overall - 36 percent vs 19 percent - showing the former president could struggle to be elected president even if he was to win the party’s primaries, the survey showed.

Les Republicains party officials hold a national congress in Paris on Saturday to decide on their platform for the 2017 election. Both Sarkozy and Juppe are due to attend.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Additional reporting by Sophie Louet Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.

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