France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy conceded defeat Sunday in the race to choose the conservative nominee for next year's presidential election.

Ex-prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe both outpolled Sarkozy in early returns, and stand to advance to the Nov. 27 runoff.

In a speech from his campaign headquarters in Paris on Sunday, Sarkozy called on his supporters to vote for Fillon in the second round.

With more than 3.2 million votes counted of an estimated total over 5 million, Fillon had 44 percent, Juppe 28.1 and Sarkozy 21.1.

Fillon has enjoyed a strong boost in popularity in recent weeks thanks to his image of authority and seriousness compared to Sarkozy's more brazen demeanor.