Friday 2 December 2016

French conservatives voting to choose nominee for next year's presidential election

Sylvie Corbet

Published 20/11/2016 | 13:06

A man stands in the polling booth to vote in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A man stands in the polling booth to vote in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A woman leaves the polling booth to vote in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People queue inside the Massena museum polling station during the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election vote in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A woman casts her ballot to vote as people queue in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A man casts his ballot in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. Sign reads, "Open primary for the right and center". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Dogs wait as its owner stands in a polling booth to vote in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A woman casts her ballot in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. Sign reads, "Open primary for the right and center". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French politician Francois Fillon, member of the conservative Les Republicains political party, leaves the polling station after he voted in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Paris, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
People queue in a polling station in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Paris, France November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

French conservatives are voting in a nationwide primary to choose their nominee for next year's presidential election after a campaign marked by fears about immigration and Islamic extremism.

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Donald Trump's election as president of the United States is on many voters' minds, as France faces its own wave of populism that has emboldened an outsider with an eye on the presidency.

Seven candidates are competing in the first round of the conservatives' primary, and a run-off will be held between the top two a week later.

The three leading candidates are former president Nicolas Sarkozy, 61, and former prime ministers Francois Fillon, 62, and Alain Juppe, 72.

A woman leaves the polling booth to vote in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A woman leaves the polling booth to vote in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The winner is expected to have strong chances of claiming victory in the April-May presidential election because traditional rivals on the left have been weakened by Socialist Francois Hollande's troubled presidency.

The conservative candidate's main challenger may turn out to be far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is hoping anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-establishment sentiment can propel her to the presidency.

A woman casts her ballot to vote as people queue in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A woman casts her ballot to vote as people queue in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Ms Le Pen, official candidate of her once-pariah National Front party, is not taking part in the conservative primary.

The conservatives' campaign has focused on immigration - hotly debated throughout Europe - and security concerns following recent attacks by Islamic extremists.

A man casts his ballot in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. Sign reads,
A man casts his ballot in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. Sign reads, "Open primary for the right and center". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Mr Sarkozy hopes to pull votes from people attracted to Ms Le Pen. He has called for stricter immigration rules across Europe, and vowed to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves at universities and possibly elsewhere. Hijabs already are banned in French schools, like all other visible signs of religion in strictly secular France.

Mr Fillon has pledged to organise a referendum on a quota system for immigrants.

A woman casts her ballot in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. Sign reads,
A woman casts her ballot in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Nice, France, November 20, 2016. Sign reads, "Open primary for the right and center". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

In contrast, Mr Juppe is advocating a more peaceful vision of French society, based on respect for religious freedom and ethnic diversity.

On the economic front, all candidates want to lower taxes - especially on businesses - and reduce the number of public servants. They also all agree to reverse the 35-hour working week.

French politician Francois Fillon, member of the conservative Les Republicains political party, leaves the polling station after he voted in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Paris, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
French politician Francois Fillon, member of the conservative Les Republicains political party, leaves the polling station after he voted in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election in Paris, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Results are expected late on Sunday.

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