Thursday

21st Nov 2019

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 20 year's of archives. 30-day 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.

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us