Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been gaining ground in recent weeks on his centrist rival, Alain Juppé, for the right’s presidential nomination, reports the Atlantic Sentinel.
One poll in June for the first time put Sarkozy ahead with 54 percent support against 28 percent for Juppé.
That seemed to be an outlier. Other surveys put Sarkozy’s first-round support closer to 30 percent against 40 percent for Juppé. But even those numbers are an improvement from March, when Sarkozy’s support languished in the low 20s.
The heightened security atmosphere in France, following a spate of Islamic terrorist attacks, has played into Sarkozy’s hands.
He has yet to formally announce a candidacy. Two rounds of primaries are due to take place in November. The presidential election is set for April and May.
Sarkozy first rose to prominence as interior minister in 2005, when riots broke out in the largely immigrant-populated housing projects on the outskirts of Paris.
His presidency, from 2007 to 2012, saw few concrete initiatives to enhance the assimilation of foreign-born nationals into French society. But Sarkozy has taken a harder line since he returned to politics last year, calling for a ban on headscarfs at public universities and a tightening of nationalization requirements.
Such proposals appeared to help his party, Les Républicains, beat the Front National into second place in local elections that year.
The ruling Socialists came in third.
Polls suggest François Hollande, the incumbent president, would fail to qualify for the second-round runoff in a three-way contest with Sarkozy and the Front's Marine Le Pen in 2017.