France centre-right primary: Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy knocked out
French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been knocked out of a primary to choose the presidential candidate of the centre-right Republican party, BBC says.
Admitting defeat, Mr Sarkozy endorsed Francois Fillon, a moderate who finished first in Sunday's first round, according to near-complete results.
Alain Juppe, who like Mr Fillon is an ex-prime minister, finished second.
They will face each other in a run-off next Sunday. The winner will compete in next year's presidential election.
The winner of the Republican primary is likely to make the presidential run-off, where he or she will probably face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
With the governing socialists unpopular and divided, it seems unlikely that any left-wing candidate will survive the first round in April.
Polls currently suggest that the centre-right candidate would win the second round in May.
In his concession speech, Mr Sarkozy, 61, said: "I have no bitterness, I have no sadness, and I wish the best for my country."
He told reporters he now supported Mr Fillon, 62, whose "political choices" he said were closer to his own than Mr Juppe's.
Mr Fillon served as Mr Sarkozy's prime minister during the latter's presidency between 2007 and 2012.