PARIS (Reuters) - France's conservative party leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, on Wednesday ruled out making any alliance with Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists to stop the increasingly popular far right from winning regional councils in elections this month.
The question of alliances has taken center stage in France after polls forecast the National Front would win at least two of 13 regions in the two-round election if the conservatives and Socialists both stand against it in the run-off.
Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said "everything must be done" to keep the FN out of power, including alliances with Sarkozy's The Republicans. But Sarkozy turned down the offer on Wednesday.
"I have nothing to do with the National Front, but I also fight the Socialists' policies," Sarkozy, who was president of France in 2007-2012 before losing an election to Hollande in 2012, told Europe 1 radio.
Alliances between France's two biggest mainstream parties "would be doing a favor to (FN leader Marina) Le Pen. It would show that the FN is the only opposition party," said Sarkozy, who is hoping the regional elections will help him in his bid to get his party's nomination for the 2017 presidential elections.
A BVA poll on Sunday showed Le Pen winning in the northern France's Nord-Pas-de-Calais region by a comfortable margin if The Republicans and Socialists stay for the run-off. Both are forecast to qualify for the second round.
Her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, would also win the south-east Provence-Alpes-Cotes-d'Azur under the same scenario.
If the Socialists, seen coming third in the first round in both regions, pull out or strike an alliance with Sarkozy's conservative party, the FN might still win but that would be less certain.
Le Pen would have a much smaller head start and the run-off between her niece and the conservatives in the southeast would be too close to call, the BVA poll showed.
Both the chief of France's employers' group and a major regional newspaper on Tuesday warned voters against backing the far right, a measure of growing concern at the FN's rise. The anti-immigrant party has benefited from worries over Europe's migrant crisis and the Paris attacks.
A survey by Elabe pollsters showed that FN's number 2 official, Florian Philippot, would win in eastern France, again assuming the Socialists and Republicans don't strike alliances.
Hollande has seen a huge boost to his approval ratings over his handling of the aftermath of the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last month.
That might help mitigate the Socialists' much-expected defeat in the regional elections somewhat, but they are still seen suffering heavily losses - they currently rule all but one region.
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander, editing by Larry King)