Sarkozy concedes loss in France presidential primary

By Stephen Feller  |  Nov. 21, 2016 at 12:23 AM
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PARIS, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Conservative French voters shifted their support unexpectedly Sunday, delivering former President Nicolas Sarkozy a defeat in the presidential primary contest and lifting two former prime ministers into a run-off election next week.

Former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe will face off on Nov. 27 for their party's nomination to run against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, whose anti-Europe and anti-immigration stances have gained traction with French voters.

France is expected to take a rightward swing politically as president Francois Hollande has horrid approval ratings and Le Pen's nationalist and isolationist views have taken hold there, as they have in many other countries around the world. In an interview last week, Le Pen specifically said she'd been emboldened by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's victory on Nov. 8.

Sarkozy did not have much of a chance, as he has largely not led in polls the entire primary. Fillon, who was third or fourth in polls for months, picked up 44 percent of the vote to finish first. Juppe had 28 percent and Sarkozy landed third with 21 percent.

While French voters seemingly repudiated Sarkozy, analysts say the solid win by Fillon means there is less of a chance of Le Pen being elected -- so the country may swing center-right, instead of far-right.

"Good news for Europe," Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg economics in London, told Bloomberg. "The risk that a widespread yearning for change in France could sweep far-right Marine Le Pen to power next year has receded."

Le Pen has led polls continuously for next April's presidential elections in France, but polling also suggests Fillon or Juppe would wallop Le Pen in the national election.

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