Thatcher fan wins big

> Con­ser­va­tive Fil­lon likely to face Le Pen in French pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

PARIS: Hard­line re­formist Fran­cois Fil­lon scored a re­sound­ing win in France’s con­ser­va­tive pri­maries on Sun­day, mak­ing him favourite to win a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion five months from now against the pop­u­lar far-right and a deeply di­vided left.

Fil­lon, a for­mer prime min­is­ter who wants to raise the re­tire­ment age, cut back so­cial se­cu­rity and scrap the 35-hour work­ing week, would eas­ily beat Na­tional Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen in a runoff sec­ond round, a flash opin­ion poll said right af­ter his pri­maries vic­tory.

But to do that, the 62-year-old ad­mirer of late Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher now faces the chal­lenge of bring­ing vot­ers be­hind a pro­gramme that prom­ises rad­i­cal change.

“I must now con­vince the whole coun­try our pro­ject is the only one that can lift us up, for jobs, growth and to fight those fa­nat­ics that de­clared war on us,” a vis­i­bly moved Fil­lon said at his cam­paign head­quar­ters.

“I will take up an un­usual chal­lenge for France: tell the truth and com­pletely change its soft­ware,” said Fil­lon, a rac­ing car en­thu­si­ast who lives in a Loire val­ley chateau.

With votes from nearly all of 10,229 polling sta­tions counted, Fil­lon had won 66.5% of the votes in the pri­maries or­gan­ised by the cen­tre-right Les Repub­li­cains party.

Next year’s pres­i­den­tials in the eu­ro­zone’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy are shap­ing up to be an­other test of the strength of anti-es­tab­lish­ment par­ties in Western coun­tries, with French vot­ers an­gry with stub­bornly high unem­ploy­ment and fear­ful af­ter a wave of mil­i­tant at­tacks.

In a coun­try that saw months of street protests ear­lier this year against labour re­forms that are much milder than those Fil­lon pro­poses, his far-reach­ing plans give both the rul­ing So­cial­ists and FN some hope that they can make a come­back.

Up un­til a cou­ple of weeks ago they ex­pected the cen­tre-right can­di­date to be Alain Juppe, a more mod­er­ate propo­si­tion who had been a favourite in polls for months.

“For us, he’s a great can­di­date (to face in the elec­tion),” the FN’s Flo­rian Philip­pot said.

“His pro­ject is so sharply dif­fer­ent from ours.”

Un­der the lead­er­ship of Le Pen, who took over from her fa­ther Jean-Marie in 2011, the FN has switched from an eco­nom­i­cally lib­eral, pro-small busi­ness party to one that prom­ises to lower the re­tire­ment age and guar­an­tee France’s gen­er­ous wel­fare safety net.

Fil­lon plans to slash pub­lic spend­ing by 100 bil­lion over five years, scrap a tax on the wealthy and push the re­tire­ment age to 65 as well as in­crease VAT sales tax. – Reuters

Fil­lon ges­tures as he de­liv­ers a speech fol­low­ing the first re­sults of the pri­mary’s sec­ond round on Sun­day at his cam­paign head­quar­ters in Paris.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.