Former French prime minister Francois Fillon is surrouded by supporters at his campaign headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 20, 2016. Francois Fillon finished first out of seven contenders in the first round of the conservative primary on Sunday, making a surprise lead in the competition in which ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was knocked out, partial results showed. (Xinhua/Li Genxing)
PARIS, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Former French prime minister Francois Fillon finished first out of seven contenders in the first round of the conservative primary on Sunday, making a surprise lead in the competition in which ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was knocked out, partial results showed.
According to first results based on 8,400 polling stations out of a total 10,228, Fillon was seen taking 44 percent of the vote and making a large lead to former foreign minister Alain Juppe's 28.1 percent.
Ex-head of state Sarkozy ranked the third, collecting 22.1 percent of Sunday's first round vote.
Much beyond expectations, turnout of the first round reached 2.5 million at 5:00 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) and organizers saw up to 4 million voters to participate Sunday's vote.
The higher-than-predicted participation is likely to favor Fillon, whose win a week ahead of the competition's first round helped him to make spectacular surge in polls and overshadow the presidential favorite Juppe. Pollsters have long predicted Juppe to finish first in the two-round competition.
"This first round of primaries has been a remarkable popular success, it is a wave that demonstrates the incredible interest of the citizens for the future of their country," Fillon hailed the partial results.
The 62-year-old conservative pledged that his "campaign will accelerate further" to "break with a five-year failure."