People in France have taken part in a US-style primary to choose a centre-right candidate who will run in next year’s presidential election.
Seven candidates are competing to represent the Republican Party.
The frontrunners include ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-Prime Ministers Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon.
The winner of the conservative primary seems assured to make the presidential run-off, where he or she is likely to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Polls suggest that the Republican candidate would win that election. With the governing socialists unpopular and divided, it seems unlikely that any left-wing candidate will survive the first round,
The centre-right primary is being held in two rounds. The top two candidates in Sunday’s vote will face each other in a second ballot a week later.
On Sunday afternoon organisers said turnout was high. About three million people were expected to cast ballots.
Voting is not restricted to party members. Those taking part have to sign a statement saying that they “share the Republican values of the right and the centre”.
The candidates are:
- Nicolas Sarkozy, 61, who in 2012 failed to be re-elected after a single five-year term. He has since moved to the right on immigration and security issues.
- Alain Juppe, 71, who has campaigned as a moderate and a unifying figure in the aftermath of jihadist attacks. He has been seen as a frontrunner.
- Francois Fillon, 62, a centrist who was Mr Sarkozy’s PM and has promised deep market reforms. He has enjoyed a late surge in polls.
- Bruno Le Maire, 47, an outsider with a technocratic image who offers a 1,000-page “contract with the French”.
- Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 43, a former environment minister who has called for cannabis to be decriminalised.
- Jean-Francois Cope, 52, a former party chief seen as the standard bearer of an “uninhibited right”.
- Jean-Frederic Poisson, 53, a conservative who stresses Christian values.