Update: Alain Juppe concedes making Francois Fillon Les Republicans' presidential candidate against Marine Le Pen in next year's presidential election.
#BREAKING Alain Juppe concedes defeat in French presidential primary— AFP news agency (@AFP) November 27, 2016
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As previewed this morning, in Sunday's biggest political highlight - the runoff round in the French Republican primary - moments ago the results have started trickling in and it is shaping up as a monumental victory for Francois Fillon, who served as French prime minister from 2007-2012, and who according to the provisional count has roughly 69% of the primary vote, in a move that may once again prove beneficial for Marine Le Pen as the more moderate, and former favorite, Alain Juppe is now almost certainly eliminated.
- FILLON HAS ABOUT 69.5% OF PRIMARY VOTE, PROVISIONAL COUNT SHOWS
- JUPPE HAS ABOUT 30.5% OF VOTE, PROVISIONAL COUNT SHOWS
The vote's outcome means that it will be up to Fillon to prevent the collapse of the French establishment, as it will be up to him to prevent Le Pen from winning in next May's presidential election. It remains to be seen how successful he is in unifying the anti-protest vote.
As a reminder, the 62-year-old racing car enthusiast who lives in a Loire valley chateau...
... Fillon promises radical reforms to France's regulation-encumbered economy, vowing to roll back the state and slash government's bloated costs.
Some policy highlights:
- On foreign policy: Fillon has a positive outlook on Paris’ relations with Moscow. Unlike Juppe, who sees Russia as more of a threat to be contained, the 62-year-old has called Moscow a “crucial partner” for Europe and has supported calls for the lifting of sanctions against Russia.
- Fillon is the author of a book called, “Beating Islamic Totalitarianism,” and advocates a hard line against Islamist terrorism at home. He wants to bar French jihadists from returning to France after fighting in Syria or Iraq by stripping them of their citizenship. Juppe has a somewhat softer approach to terrorism and supports the arrest of jihadists returning from Iraq or Syria. He has also made calls to place suspected Islamist radicals who pose a threat under house arrest
- On the economic front, Fillon advocates tough free-market positions. His economic proposals include cutting 500,000 to 600,000 civil servant jobs and cutting public spending by €110 billion ($117bn). He also wants to raise the retirement age from the current 62 years to 65 years and VAT rates by 3.5 percent. The Republican also advocates for ending the 35-hour work week, allowing unions to negotiate up to 48-hour working weeks.
- On social policy, Fillon, for instance, opposes same-sex partners adopting children. Such a conservative agenda has allowed him to secure votes among anti-gay marriage groups. He also advocates making it harder for children born to foreign surrogate mothers to obtain French citizenship.
In a curious twist, as explained earlier, the now virtually assured win for Fillon could give the highly unpopular current president Francois Hollande a potential "in" to attempt another run at the presidency himself, giving him a target to attack and could convince him to make a bid for a second five-year mandate against the odds. His Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, is also gearing up to stand. The Socialist primaries are due to take place in January.