Friday

18th Aug 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Opinion

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy