Fil­lon floors ri­val in con­ser­va­tive pri­maries

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Fran­cois Fil­lon has taken the con­ser­va­tive ticket in next year’s French pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by a land­slide at party pri­maries. With nearly all the bal­lots counted, he had won 66.5% to 33.5% for his run-off ri­val, Alain Juppe. The for­mer prime min­is­ter promised to build a fairer so­ci­ety, say­ing France wanted “truth and... ac­tion”. A new opin­ion poll sug­gests he would eas­ily beat the far right’s Marine Le Pen in the ac­tual elec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the Har­ris in­ter­ac­tive poll quoted by BFMTV, Mr Fil­lon would lead the Na­tional Front can­di­date by 26% to 24% in the first round, then win the run-off against her by 67% to 33%. Mr Juppe, also a for­mer prime min­is­ter and re­garded as more mod­er­ate, con­grat­u­lated Mr Fil­lon and pledged to sup­port him in his bid to be­come pres­i­dent. The job for Mr Fil­lon now is to unite his party af­ter this un­prece­dented pri­mary bat­tle, and pre­pare to take on the gov­ern­ing So­cial­ist party - and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen - in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions next year. As the re­sult of the Repub­li­can party pri­mary be­came clear, Mr Fil­lon told his sup­port­ers he would work for change. “If the French peo­ple en­trust me with their con­fi­dence,” he said, “I will try to re­spect that con­tract and con­duct my­self with dig­nity.” “I will take up an un­usual chal­lenge for France,” he went on to say. “To tell the truth and com­pletely change its soft­ware.” Mr Fil­lon had been widely ex­pected to win the race, af­ter se­cur­ing 44% of the vote in the first round a week ago that saw for­mer Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy knocked out. The 62-year-old is a Ro­man Catholic who is seen as a tra­di­tion­al­ist on is­sues such as abor­tion and gay mar­riage. He is propos­ing dra­matic eco­nomic re­forms that in­clude slash­ing 50,000 pub­lic jobs, end­ing the 35-hour week, rais­ing the re­tire­ment age and scrap­ping the wealth tax. On for­eign pol­icy, he ad­vo­cates closer re­la­tions with Rus­sia. Mr Juppe had ini­tially been seen as the favourite to win the race but strug­gled against Mr Fil­lon’s strong per­for­mances in the pri­mary de­bates. Con­ser­va­tive daily Le Fi­garo warns Mr Fil­lon’s big­gest chal­lenge will now be to stop the “ter­ri­ble alien­ation of the or­di­nary voter”, as he will need to ap­peal to a much broader con­stituency at the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion than in th­ese pri­maries. Marginalised vot­ers, it ar­gues, are “be­ing driven into the arms of the Na­tional Front by unem­ploy­ment and un­con­trolled im­mi­gra­tion”. The cen­tre-left Le Monde says Mr Fil­lon’s clear vic­tory gives him a “good chance of win­ning against the Na­tional Front and a co­matose left”.

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