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Sarkozy would lose if poll held

PARIS, Mar 8 – French President Nicolas Sarkozy would be eliminated in the first round of presidential elections if the vote were held now, an opinion poll published on a newspaper web site found Monday.

Sarkozy would trail far-right champion Marine Le Pen (24 percent) and possible socialist candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn (23 percent) with 21 percent, according to the opinion poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Le Parisien newspaper.

On Sunday a poll, also conducted by Harris Interactive, had shown Le Pen leading the race for the French presidency in next year\’s vote at 23 percent, against 21 percent for the centre-right\’s Sarkozy.

The survey itself must be taken with a pinch of salt. It was conducted online, a method sometimes seen as less accurate than telephone polling, and it presumed that Socialist leader Martine Aubry would be in the race.

The two polls were the first to predict that a National Front candidate would make it to the run-off.

Le Pen\’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom she replaced as National Front leader in January, won enough votes in the 2002 presidential election to face then incumbent Jacques Chirac in the run-off, but his strong showing in the first round had not been foreseen by pollsters.

Le Pen senior bumped the socialists\’ man Lionel Jospin out of the running, only to be roundly trounced in the second round by the right\’s Chirac.

Sarkozy has yet to declare his candidacy, and his personal approval ratings are catastrophically low.

The Socialists have also yet to settle on a candidate. The party will hold a primary in October but the apparent front-runners — Socialist leader Aubry and Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund director — have yet to confirm that they will stand.

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