Up­beat Fil­lon heads for fin­ish

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS:

Con­ser­va­tive French pres­i­den­tial fron­trun­ner Fran­cois Fil­lon was hold­ing a fi­nal rally in Paris yes­ter­day as he seeks to clinch the nom­i­na­tion for the cen­ter-right Repub­li­cans in a pri­mary vote this week­end. Fil­lon, whose surge has taken com­men­ta­tors and poll­sters by sur­prise, gave an as­sured per­for­mance in a tele­vised de­bate on Thurs­day night against his cen­trist ri­val, long­time fa­vorite Alain Juppe.

Fifty-seven per­cent of view­ers judged Fil­lon to have been the most con­vinc­ing, ac­cord­ing to an in­de­pen­dent poll for the BFMTV tele­vi­sion chan­nel of 908 peo­ple who fol­lowed the nearly two-hour ex­change. A to­tal of 8.5 mil­lion peo­ple tuned in to hear the two ex-prime min­is­ters stress their dif­fer­ences on pub­lic sec­tors cuts, re­la­tions be­tween France and Rus­sia, and their views on mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Fil­lon was to hold a rally in Paris yes­ter­day evening where he hoped to draw up to 10,000 peo­ple, while Juppe was cam­paign­ing in the city of Nancy in east­ern France. Both men are al­ready look­ing ahead to their ri­vals in next year’s elec­tion that will fea­ture resur­gent far­right leader Ma­rine Le Pen, as well as a So­cial­ist party can­di­date and in­de­pen­dents. “I think I am best placed with my pro­gram to beat Ma­rine Le Pen,” Juppe said on Fri­day, re­fer­ring to the na­tion­al­ist and anti-im­mi­gra­tion boss of the Na­tional Front.

Clear Dif­fer­ences

Thurs­day night’s de­bate cast into stark re­lief the dif­fer­ences be­tween the can­di­dates, with Fil­lon often por­tray­ing 71-year-old Juppe as not am­bi­tious enough and Juppe ac­cus­ing his ri­val of be­ing un­re­al­is­tic. “It is true that my project is more rad­i­cal and per­haps more dif­fi­cult,” said Fil­lon, whose eco­nomic ideas have been com­pared to those of late Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher.

The 62-year-old de­vout Catholic wants to slash an eye-pop­ping 500,000 pub­lic sec­tor jobs over five years and scrap the 35-hour work­ing week in a bid to kick-start the slug­gish French econ­omy. He is also more so­cially con­ser­va­tive, be­lieves France is “on the verge of re­volt”, and takes a harder line on Is­lam in France.

Juppe has stressed how many on the far­right are in fa­vor of his ri­val’s pro­pos­als. “No, France is not a mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try. France has a his­tory, a lan­guage and a cul­ture which have nat­u­rally been en­riched from out­side,” Fil­lon said on Thurs­day dur­ing the de­bate. — AFP

PARIS: Fran­cois Fil­lon (left) and Alain Juppe take part in the first tele­vised de­bate be­tween the two re­main­ing can­di­dates for the rightwing Les Repub­li­cains (LR) party pri­maries on Thurs­day. —AFP

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