PARIS (Reuters) - Socialist presidential hopeful Francois Hollande is pulling further ahead in the race for next year's election in France, according to an opinion poll on Tuesday which showed President Nicolas Sarkozy trailing far behind.
Hollande would win 32 percent of the vote in the first round, up 2 points from a poll on September 7, while Sarkozy would come second with 21 percent, down 1, the survey by pollster Ipsos for the daily Le Monde showed.
Martine Aubry, Hollande's chief rival for the Socialist Party ticket, would get 29 percent of the vote if she ran against Sarkozy, an increase of 2 points from the last poll and compared with 22 percent for Sarkozy, a 1-point decline.
A third Socialist hopeful, Segolene Royal, who was defeated by Sarkozy in the 2007 election, would narrowly lose to the conservative incumbent with 22 percent against his 23 percent, although her score was up 3 points from the September 7 poll.
The poll gave far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen 16 percent.
The Socialists are due to pick their candidate in a two-round primary contest on October 9 and 16, while Sarkozy is expected to announce later in the year that he will run.
The survey, coming on the heels of a Senate election that swung the upper house left for the first time in half a century, was more evidence of the battle Sarkozy faces if he runs for a second term in the two-round election in April and May.
In the wake of the Senate vote, several Sarkozy supporters have sought to contain internal party divisions and stress that Sarkozy is the logical candidate for the 2012 contest.
However, a survey by polling agency BVA on Tuesday showed 57 percent of French people would like Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to stand next year, against 32 percent for Sarkozy.
Centrist Jean-Louis Borloo said this week he was abandoning plans to run in the election. Polls had given Borloo, a former environment minister, around 7 percent support.
Government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse said on Tuesday the ruling UMP was well-placed to benefit from Borloo's withdrawal.
The Ipsos survey of 962 people was conducted on September 30 and October 1, just before Borloo's withdrawal from the race on Sunday.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)
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