Fillon well-placed for presidential ticket
Francois Fillon. Source: Wikimedia
French conservatives are choosing their nominee for next year’s presidential election from two former prime ministers with differing views on how to prevent more terror attacks.
The right-of-centre primary runoff candidates are Francois Fillon, 62, and Alain Juppe, 71, are both senior members of the Republicans party. Fillon, who has focused on fighting Islamic extremism, is seen as the front-runner.
The National Front leader Marine Le Pen is hoping to harness anti-immigrant, Muslim and establishment anger in the April general election, with a runoff in May if neither side wins a majority.
The unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande is yet to announce if he will seek re-election.
Fillon has seen a recent boost with his focus on traditional family values and promise to reduce immigration to France “to a minimum”.
Juppe offers a more peaceful vision of society, based on respect for religious freedom and ethnic diversity.
On the subject of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Fillon is in favour of forging closer ties, dropping sanctions over its aggressive actions in Ukraine and cooperating to fight so-called Islamic State.
Fillon has said “Russia poses no threat” to Western Europe, while Juppe wants continued pressure on Putin. They both pledge to cut public spending, reduce the civil service, raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, extend the working week beyond 35 hours and cut commercial taxes.
Fillon was the prime minister from 2007 to 2012 under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, who is now backing Fillon. Juppe was French prime minister from 1995 to 1997 under Jacques Chirac.
Donald Trump’s victory in the US election success has unleashed fears that France could be next to see a rejection of the political class with some now fearing a Le Pen victory in May.
President Francois Hollande spoke of a “period of uncertainty” and Juppe warned the French people of “the risks of demagoguery and extremism”. The left-wing newspaper, Liberation, carried the headline “Trumpocalypse”.
But a Trump-like victory for Le Pen remains unlikely. The US bipartisan system is much more predictable than the French multi-party system.
While the US presidential election takes place in a single round, the French process has two rounds allowing the two candidates who come first and second to make political deals and attract the votes of any of the disqualified candidates ahead of the second round.
No other party is likely to make a deal with Le Pen.
Fillon, Hollande and Sarkozy have already announced that they would ally with whichever candidate stands against Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election.
In 2002 a “republican front”, incorporating conservatives backing the right-wing candidate and socialists whose candidate, Lionel Jospin, failed to reach the runoff, largely voted against Le Pen in favour of Jacques Chirac, who won the election with 82 per cent of the vote.