Sarkozy crashes out of pres­i­den­tial race

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

PARIS — For­mer French pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy crashed out of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Sun­day, suf­fer­ing a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in the first round of the rightwing pri­mary.

Sarkozy was beaten into third place af­ter a stun­ning up­set by Fran­cois Fil­lon, who served as his prime min­is­ter, with the vet­eran Alain Juppe fin­ish­ing sec­ond.

The sur­prise re­sult puts Fil­lon in a com­mand­ing po­si­tion for next Sun­day’s sec­ond round of a con­test that is widely ex­pected to de­cide France’s next leader.

With the French left­wing in dis­ar­ray, the rightwing can­di­date is tipped to face — and beat — far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the pres­i­den­tial run-off next May.

But af­ter a wave of pop­ulism saw Bri­tish vot­ers choose to leave the Euro­pean Union and swept Don­ald Trump to the White House, no-one is writ­ing off Le Pen’s chances.

In a ma­jor up­set, Fil­lon, a pro-busi­ness conservative, took more than 44 per­cent of the vote com­pared to around 28 per­cent for Juppe, a for­mer prime min­is­ter and for­eign min­is­ter. Sarkozy’s hopes of win­ning back the pres­i­dency were crushed as he scored just 21 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to near-com­plete re­sults.

Sarkozy im­me­di­ately en­dorsed Fil­lon and said he would now with­draw from po­lit­i­cal life.

“I fought for my be­liefs with pas­sion . . . I did not man­age to con­vince the vot­ers,” he told sup­port­ers.

“I have great re­spect for Alain Juppe, but Fran­cois Fil­lon’s po­lit­i­cal choices are closer to mine,” Sarkozy added.

Fil­lon (62) pulled off a re­mark­able come-from-be­hind vic­tory in the first round af­ter trail­ing Sarkozy and Juppe in all but the final days of the two-month cam­paign.

Vot­ers ap­pear to have warmed to Fil­lon’s un­der­stated style over the brash­ness of 61-year-old Sarkozy, who still deeply di­vides the coun­try four years af­ter be­ing turfed out of of­fice by the So­cial­ist Fran­cois Hol­lande.

Juppe (71) was the early fron­trun­ner but Fil­lon made stun­ning progress thanks largely to strong per­for­mances in three tele­vised de­bates.

Fil­lon told his ec­static camp that his pro­gramme was one of “hope”. He said he had a “spe­cial thought” for Sarkozy, whom he served as prime min­is­ter from 2007 to 2012.

It ap­pears that the par­tic­i­pa­tion of left­wing vot­ers in the first ever US-style rightwing pri­mary to be held in France could have been a fac­tor in drag­ging down Sarkozy.

Any­one who paid two euros ($2.1) and signed a state­ment say­ing they ad­hered to “the val­ues of the cen­tre and the right” could take part.

Many So­cial­ist sup­port­ers who turned out are thought to have done so to block the for­mer pres­i­dent.

Turnout was high with around four mil­lion peo­ple cast­ing bal­lots, ac­cord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary count. — Al Jazeera

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