Fillon in stunning victory as Right's candidate
Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30
Francois Fillon, a former prime minister who has promised to enact radical "Thatcherite" economic reforms in France, last night trounced his more moderate rival, Alain Juppe to win his right-wing party's presidential nomination.
Partial results placed Mr Fillon (62) - considered an also-ran until a few weeks ago - far ahead of Mr Juppe, also a former prime minster, in a vote to lead the Republican party, with almost 70pc of the vote.
"My approach has been understood: France can't bear its decline. It wants truth and it wants action," Mr Fillon said at his campaign headquarters as he accepted the nomination.
"I will take up an unusual challenge for France: tell the truth and completely change its software," he said.
Conceding defeat, Mr Juppe said: "I congratulate Francois Fillon for his clear victory. This evening, I offer my support to Francois Fillon and I wish him victory next May," he said.
With the French left in the doldrums, Mr Fillon's victory places him in pole-position to face the Front National's Marine Le Pen in presidential elections next May. Ms Le Pen is adamant that the same anti-establishment anger which saw Britain vote to leave the EU and America to elect Donald Trump could sweep her to power, although polls suggest that is unlikely.
Mr Fillon - a racing car enthusiast who lives with his Anglo-Welsh wife, Penelope, in a chateau in the Loire valley - is a social conservative who has positioned himself as a defender of traditional family values and France's Catholic roots as well as an opponent of "multiculturalism".
He has taken a hard line on Islam, saying the religion must eradicate radicalism, after terror attacks have left 230 dead in France in the past two years.
He wants to break with France's statist tradition and to roll out an ambitious free-market programme that will undoubtedly set him on collision course with France's unions. His pledge to slash half a million state-sector jobs and jettison the 35-hour week were branded unworkable by Mr Juppe.
Mr Fillon backs a "Europe of nations" and has voiced scepticism over the European commission and EU parliament.
Attention will now turn to the French left, with a bitter contest expected between Francois Hollande, the most unpopular president of modern times, and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, in the Socialist primaries in January.