A poll, conducted after former IMF chief Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on attempted rape charges which he denies, shows Nicolas Sarkozy losing by a sizeable margin to either of the likely left-wing challengers - Francois Hollande or Martine Aubry, reported Reuters.

The poll conducted by the Paris-based BVA polling institute on May 20-21 suggested that those now expected to replace Kahn, who was the runaway favourite for 2012, would do just about as well. The poll results were published on Tuesday.

Hollande, a grassroots Socialist Party veteran who has never held government office, would win the first round of the 2012 presidential contest with a score of 27 percent, versus 21 percent for Sarkozy.

Martine Aubry, Socialist Party leader, would score 24 percent of the first round votes versus 22 percent for Sarkozy, if she, rather than Hollande, is the challenger chosen in the Socialist Party's selection contest. Martine Aubry and Francois Hollande are taking DSK's place in voters' hearts for now, said BVA analyst Gael Sliman, the report stated.

The poll prediction says that in the second-round runoff, Hollande would crush Sarkozy, taking 62 percent of the vote versus 38 percent for the incumbent of the Elysee Palace, roughly on a par with the scores given to Strauss-Kahn in opinion surveys before his arrest.

Aubry too would beat Sarkozy persuasively. The BVA poll had her winning with 59 percent against 41 percent for Sarkozy.

The Socialists are organizing a primary contest to pick a challenger in next year's presidential election, where Sarkozy is expected to seek a second term. The election takes place will be taking place in two rounds on April 22 and May 6.

Sliman, deputy managing director of BVA said, Neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Marine Le Pen are benefitting from the political climate in the wake of the DSK affair, the report stated.

Strauss-Kahn, the former French finance minister and IMF chief was widely expected to be the Socialists' candidate in 2012.  His hopes of running for the election came crashing down when he was arrested on May 14 and was charged with attempting to rape a maid at the Sofitel hotel in New York. He has quit as head of the International Monetary Fund and vowed to fight the charges.