Francois Fillon easily wins France's Republican primary

By Allen Cone  |  Nov. 28, 2016 at 9:12 AM
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PARIS, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Conservative Francois Fillon easily won the Republican party's runoff primary for president in France.

The former prime minister captured 68 percent of the vote Sunday to defeat Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppe, who had 33.5 percent.

"Victory is mine. It is a substantive victory built on belief," Fillon said to supporters after his win. "We have all the assets to be a modern, sovereign nation in the lead in Europe."

The first round of the French presidential election will be held in April 23. Should no candidate win an outright majority, a runoff between the top two will be held on May 17.

Fillon's opponents haven't been determined.

Socialist Francois Hollande, whose popularity has declined since he became president in 2012, has not decided whether he would run in the National Front Party party again in January.

Hollande's own prime minister, Manuel Valls, said Sunday he hasn't ruled out opposing the president in next month's left-wing primaries.

"This past presidential term has been pathetic," Fillon said in criticizing Hollande. "It is time to end it and start moving forward as we have never done in 30 years. For this we will need everyone."

Fillon could face far-right National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen in the final round of the presidential vote next spring. According to the Harris interactive poll quoted by BFMTV, Fillon would lead the National Front candidate by 26-24 percent in the first round, then win the run-off against her 67-33 percent.

In the first round of the primary on Nov. 20, Fillon won with 44.1 percent of the vote compared with Juppe's 28.6 percent and former President Nicolas Sarkozy in third with 20.6 percent, eliminating him from the final round.

Fillon, 62, is a Roman Catholic who is seen is against abortion and gay marriage.

Economically, he wants to cut 500,000 public jobs, end the 35-hour week, raise the retirement age and eliminate the wealth tax. In foreign policy, he wants a better relationship with Russia.

Juppe, a prime minister under President Jacques Chirac, is a moderate. He served a 2004 prison sentence for corruption.

Juppe, 71, in his concession speech said he began his campaign as he ended it: "A free man, who didn't betray who he was or what he thought."

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