Ex-French President out of centre-right primary

Paris, Nov 21 (IANS) Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been knocked out of a primary to choose the presidential candidate of the centre-right Republican party.

After coming third, Sarkozy, 61, admitted defeat and endorsed former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, 62, a moderate who finished first in Sunday’s first round, according to near-complete results, the BBC reported.

“I have no bitterness, I have no sadness, and I wish the best for my country,” Sarkozy said.

Fillon served as Sarkozy’s Prime Minister during the latter’s presidency between 2007 and 2012.

Alain Juppe, 71, who like Fillon was a former premier serving under President Jacques Chirac from 1995 to 1997, finished second.

Fillon had around 44 per cent of the vote followed by Juppe with about 28 per cent, while Sarkozy brought in only 20 per cent.

The two former premiers will face each other in a run-off next Sunday. The winner will compete in the 2017 presidential election.

The winner of the Republican primary is likely to make the presidential run-off, where he or she will probably face far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the BBC said.

Leader of the National Front since 2011, Le Pen is a fierce euroskeptic who has said there would be no place for multi-culturalism if she took power.