PARIS: Former Prime Ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe experience a head-on political collision against each other on Sunday in pursuit of France’s centre-right presidential nomination. Winner is likely to face a showdown against a resurgent far-right ideology in next year’s election. Opinion polls perceive Fillon as a social conservative with roots deeply intact with his Catholic beliefs, currently treading forward as a favorite nominee. Also famous for being a 62-year-old racing car enthusiast living in Loire valley chateau, Fillon vows radical reforms to uplift France’s dwindling economy, promising to roll back the state and slash government’s bloated costs. Working on regaining momentum, Juppe, 71, in comparison to Francois Fillon, is a soft-mannered moderate who is currently mayor of Bordeaux, termed his rival’s reforms as a “brutal” program which lacks political credibility. Replying to Juppe’s severe criticism, Fillon replied “My enemy is the decline of France,” on Friday night, speaking to supporters in Paris at a final rally before the vote. Many French citizens view Sunday’s Les Republicans primary contest as a proxy for next spring’s presidential election. Pollsters say the winner will be favourite to enter the Elysee palace, with the ruling Socialists in turmoil and the anti-establishment National Front historically disadvantaged by France’s two-round system. Yet after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s shock triumph in the US election, France’s vote is shaping up to be another battle of strength between weakened mainstream parties and the rising force of insurgent populists. There could still be upsets ahead. Voting opens at more than 10,000 polling stations across France at 8 a.m. (2.00 a.m. ET/0700 GMT) and closes at 7 p.m. The first results may emerge within an hour and a half of polls closing. With France still under a state of emergency since Islamist militants killed 130 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris in November 2015, and with soldiers on patrol in the capital’s streets, security will be tight near polling points. Juppe, who has focused his attacks on Fillon’s proposals to cut public sector jobs and end the 35-hour week, bills himself as the best-placed Les Republicans candidate to defeat the far-right leader Marine Le Pen next spring. “There is a France that is winning and a France that is suffering,” he said in Thursday’s debate. “We must bring the two together.” Polls show both candidates would beat Le Pen in the expected presidential runoff vote, though Juppe, who would be better placed to rally left-wing voters, would do so by a more comfortable margin. President Francois Hollande, whose low popularity ratings mirror the disarray in the ranks of the Left, has two weeks in which to decide whether to run for re-election. Fillon’s Thatcherite economic platform would give the 62-year-old Hollande a target to attack and could convince him to make a bid for a second five-year mandate against the odds. Current opinion polls show any Socialist candidate would get knocked out of the election’s first round next April, with the Les Republicans candidate going on to beat the National Front’s Le Pen in the May runoff. In a sign of growing frustration among the Left’s forces, a leading Socialist on Saturday urged Hollande and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, to contest the party’s primary in January. Claude Bartolone, who heads the lower house of parliament, said the Socialist party would benefit if the two men and others such as former economy minister Emmanuel Macron were to stand. The latter is standing anyway as an independent.