After the historic win by Republican Donald Trump in the US election on 9 November, France is said to be bracing for a possible surprise when its turn comes next year. A politician and a campaigner at a rally for French presidential front runner Alain Juppé said: "the French never vote like the Americans".
France is believed to be wondering if it would be the next country to prove the opinion polls wrong like the US presidential election, which had favoured Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to the White House. Earlier, the pollsters also failed the Britons in predicting Brexit, the UK's vote to leave the European Union, correctly.
French pollsters and pundits are reported to be warning to not rule out surprises in France, too. The Mayor of southwest city of Bordeaux and a former prime minister, Juppe is reported to be on top of the polls, with surveys predicting that he will win both a primary to be the centre-right party's candidate and the presidential elections in April 2017.
"Juppe is ahead in polls and he will also win. The French are not like the Americans, we're not crazy," Juppe supporter Mbacoye Balde told Reuters at the Bordeaux rally.
Another supporter of the presidential hopeful carried a banner in French with Trump's name on it to say "Don't make a mistake".
Speaking at the rally, Juppe said, if he get elected he would "obviously be available for dialogue with President Trump".
Virginie Calmels, Juppe's deputy in Bordeaux and one of his campaign spokespersons, said of his positive ratings: "We've always been cautious about polls, we've always said one should not get carried away and it was not in the bag."
However, "it's not quite the same in France and in the United States," she added. Unlike in the US, opinion polls in France have inclined to overestimate support for the anti-immigration National Front (FN), she said.
Even in France, the polls had predicted wrongly in a last year's local elections, which said the far-right party would win at least one seat, but it got none.
However, its leader Marine Le Pen is said to be a strong candidate in the 2017 presidential election. Several polls showed Le Pen emerging as one of the top two candidates in the first round but losing the second run-off round. This had reportedly put pollsters to present Juppe's victory as almost guaranteed.
Juppe is campaigning against main rival Nicolas Sarkozy, who served France as the president from 2007 to 2012 and got himself at the centre of controversy with his harsh take on immigration and Islamic religion.
"Beware the false answers and bad solutions ... I say 'no' to divisiveness, 'no' to demagoguery that pit the French against one another," Reuters quoted Juppe as saying without naming Sarkozy.
"I want the optimistic France to lift up the sad France," he said.
The two-round primary will begin on 20 and 27 November where he will compete against Sarkozy and five other candidates for the center-right's nomination.