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Francois Fillon, Wikipedia

France’s Fillon proves polls wrong by winning first primaries

The French media has learnt nothing from the American election. Last week, opinion polls in the media and a bevy of pundits ranked François Fillon as an outsider, while Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy, the media darlings, were showered with attention.

Published: November 21, 2016, 8:09 am

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    On Sunday, the 62-year-old Fillon, a conservative Catholic, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2012, rewrote their script of France’s 2017 presidential election by cruising to victory, making France the scene of the next possible shakeup of the global political system.

    Sarkozy, contrary to media expectations, was dealt a severe blow yesterday and had to bow out after a particulary poor result against both Alain Juppé and Fillon.

    Fillon easily defeated his contenders in the first round of primaries for the centre-right’s candidacy. Alain Juppé, it seems, was considered too leftwing by voters while Sarkozy’s attempt at sounding stern about immigration, just sounded disingenuous.

    Having won over 44 percent of the first-round vote according to preliminary results, Fillon now enters a run-off next Sunday against Alain Juppé, who garnered less than 30 percent. Sarkozy won just 20 percent of the votes.

    Both the former premier Fillon and the mayor of Bordeaux Juppé made little discernible progress in reforming France’s economy during their tenures. Most of the centre-right’s choices therefore remain soiled goods.

    French political risk analysts say it would improve Marine Le Pen’s chances of winning if she ran against Fillon.

    Establishment panic has set in after two major recent political upsets — Trump’s victory in the United States this month and the Brexit win in the United Kingdom in June, because whoever wins the centre-right primary will likely face off against Le Pen for the presidency.

    The majority of voters could possibly vote the National Front into power, with the establishment now hoping that the dopey Les Républicains nominee could secure a victory for them. Fillon at least distinguished himself by opposing the adoption of children by gay couples.

    Polls have consistently shown Juppé would easily beat Le Pen, but after Sunday’s result, polling itself is being questioned. Juppé, a left-leaning conservative campaigning on an inclusive, “happy identity” platform, had for months been ahead in polls.

    For any candidate, the challenge in next year’s election is that millions of financially hard-pressed voters may not want to hear the message that economic reform of the welfare state is the answer. Many of these voters could turn to Le Pen, whose anti-establishment status may prove an advantage.

    karin@praag.org

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