Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

Fillon leads French right primary as Sarkozy falls

  • Francois Fillon is a social conservative and an economic liberal who wants to shed 500,000 public sector jobs. (Photo: Reuters)

Former prime minister Francois Fillon has become the new favourite for next year's French presidential election after a primaries vote for the centre-right Republicans on Sunday (20 November) that saw former president Nicolas Sarkozy eliminated, possibly ending his political career.

Fillon, a pro-Russia conservative, won 44 percent of the vote in the first round of the primary election and will face in the runoff next Sunday against Alain Juppe, another former prime minister, who obtained 28 percent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Sarkozy came third with 20 percent while four other candidates finished with less than 3 percent.

He said he would vote for Fillon next Sunday because he felt he was closer to his positions. Fillon was Sarkozy's prime minister for five years but the two men fell out.

"Francois Fillon seems to have understood the best the challenges that France faces," he said.

He added that his voters were "free" but he called them to "never take the extremist path", in a clear reference to the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.


All opinion polls currently predict that Le Pen will win enough votes to take her into the second round of the presidential election in May next year, but a final victory remains unlikely.

The Socialist Party of current president Francois Hollande is weakened and divided over whether he should run for reelection, meaning the Republicans candidate is considered by many as the most likely next president.

Around four million people voted in the primaries, the first ever organised by the French centre-right. The vote was open to LR members and everyone who "shares the republican values of the right and the centre".

'Good luck to France'

A lot of the voters seem to have an "anything but Sarkozy" attitude, many considering his policies as too close to Le Pen, and believing that his term as president was a failure.

Sarkozy is also under several investigations, including over allegations that his 2007 presidential campaign received funding from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

He said it was "time for [him] to approach life with more private passions and less public passions", all but saying that he was putting an end to his career.

"Good luck to France," he added.

Until recently, the controversial Sarkozy was a challenger to the more consensual Juppe, who seemed to be more capable of rallying centre-left voters against Le Pen in the second round next year.

But the two men were overtaken by Fillon, who performed well in the three TV debates organised ahead of the vote and who has attracted the more conservative voters put off by Sarkozy's authoritarian image.

"My project will trigger a new hope. I have the conviction that nothing can stop a nation that stands up, " Fillon said on Sunday evening.

He said that "everywhere my fellow citizens told me they wanted change, authority and being respected".

Fillon, a Catholic, defends liberal economic policies and conservative social policies.

He said he wanted a "Europe that is respectful of nations" and his propositions include quotas on immigrants to the EU and a renegotiation of the Schengen agreement on the EU free-passport area, as well as quarterly summits of eurozone leaders to coordinate economic policies.


Indispensable Russia

He said that it was "ridiculous to portray Putin as a monster with hands full of blood" and has called for an end of EU sanctions against Russia.

He also said Russia was an '"indispensable ally" against the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria and that France should help Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to fight IS and help Syrian Christians.

In his economic platform, Fillon has pledged to reduce public spending by €100 billion in five years, cut taxes, cut 500,000 public jobs and abolish the 35-working hour week. He is in favour of extending the life of French nuclear power plants.

He was opposed to gay marriage but said he would not abolish it. He wants to introduce quotas of immigrants, expel Islamic radicals and ban foreign fighters from coming back.

Fillon, who missed winning the primaries outright in the first round by only five percent of the votes, is the favourite of the runoff. 

His victory will depend on how many Sarkozy voters will choose to vote for him against Juppe, but Sunday's results suggest that a majority of voters have more conservative views than Juppe.

Juppe said after the results that he wanted to "continue the fight" despite his relatively low score.

He said he wanted to "gather France around credible and modern reforms rather that cultivate a nostalgia for the past."

"More than ever, the people need to gather to turn the page of [Hollande's] term and block the National Front," he said.

Fillon keeps momentum after French primary debate

Francois Fillon was not unsettled by rival Alain Juppe, ahead of the centre-right primary election on Sunday, despite differences on the pace of reforms, multiculturalism and Russia.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us