Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been knocked out of a primary to choose the presidential candidate of the centre-right Republican Party.
The two men who will face each other in a run-off next Sunday are both former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alan Juppe.
Admitting defeat Sarkozy said he would be supporting moderate Fillon and implied he was retiring from politics.
“It is now time for me to approach a life with more private passion and less public passion. Good luck to France,” he told his supporters.
Je souhaite le meilleur pour mon pays et pour celui qui aura à conduire la France que j'aime tant – NS pic.twitter.com/xNYy61YUVV— Nicolas Sarkozy (@NicolasSarkozy) November 20, 2016
Francois Fillion has surprised many by winning the first round with 44% of the vote. Until a week ago the social conservative with economically liberal ideas had not even been expected to make it through to the second round.
The candidate who had been favourite, conservative moderate Alain Juppe, goes through in second place with just over 28 %.
Next week’s winner will compete in the 2017 presidential election. With France’s socialists unpopular a face-off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen is on the cards..