Where will be the regional capitals?

Unofficial poll gives Rouen, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille the lead - with PM Manuel Valls likely to confirm this week

ROUEN should beat Caen to become capital of Normandy, and Toulouse would take the title over Montpellier, if the public had the final say, according to a new poll on France's merged regions.

MPs last year approved a plan to redraw the map of France, creating 13 bigger regions from the current 22.

The mergers mean some existing regional capital cities will lose their status to a neighbouring one.

Prime minister Manuel Valls is expected to make a provisional choice this week, with the final decision made by the newly formed regional councils in December.

An Ifop poll for Le Journal du Dimanche asked 1,003 respondents in the affected regions to name where they think their capital should be based.

There is more at stake than simply the prestige of being the primary city in one of France’s new “super-regions”. There is an economic impact in terms of jobs.

In Normandy, Rouen proved more popular than Caen, at 54% to 44%.

The new Bourgogne-Franche-Comté should have Dijon as its base instead of Besançon, according to 74% of people polled there.

Lille (76%) emerged a clear favourite over Amiens for capital of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie.

Strasbourg received 67% of the vote among residents of Alsace-Lorraine-Champagne-Ardenne, over Metz.

In the merged Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées, where local newspaper La Dépêche warned last year that ancient Cathar rivalries could re-emerge, Toulouse appears to be a more popular choice for regional capital than Montpellier, at 58% against 41%.

Toulouse is the larger city, but neither the regional president of Languedoc-Roussillon or the mayor of Montpellier are prepared to give up without a fight.

Meanwhile, 75% of respondents said they did not believe redrawing the regions of France would make their lives simpler, and 60% do not think it will save money either.