The French people are ready to take part to choose a centre-right candidate who will run in next year’s presidential election.
They will take a US-style primary to choose their leaders out of seven candidates competing to represent the Republican Party.
The forerunners include ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-Prime Ministers Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon.
Others are Francois Fillon, 62, a centrist who was Mr Sarkozy’s PM , Bruno Le Maire, 47, an outsider with a technocratic image who offers a 1,000-page “contract with the French”.
Also, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 43, a former environment minister, Jean-Francois Cope, 52, a former party chief and Jean-Frederic Poisson, 53, a conservative who stresses Christian values.
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 seemed unlikely that any left-wing candidate would survive the first round,
The centre-right primary will be held in two rounds. The top two candidates in Sunday’s vote will face each other in a second ballot a week later.
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”.