FTER an astonishing last-minute surge, François Fillon (pictured), a former prime minister, took a crushing lead in the primary for the French centre-right Republican party on November 20th. With a huge turnout of some 4m voters, he secured roughly 44% of the vote. That was fully 16 points ahead of the other qualifier, Alain Juppé, another former prime minister, who took 28%. The big upset of the night was the elimination of Nicolas Sarkozy, who had served as boss to both of them when he was president of France in 2007-12.
Mr Sarkozy conceded defeat graciously in a televised address, saying that he harboured “no bitterness, no sadness”, and would back Mr Fillon in the run-off vote on November 27th. It was a massive blow to the former president: he had already promised once to retire from public life, after he lost his bid for re-election against François Hollande, only to come back and try again. But voters on the French centre-right, it seemed, had really had enough of him. Mr Fillon beat the former president even in some regions thought of as hard-core Sarkozy territory, such as Alpes-Maritimes, which covers the Côte d’Azur.
The momentum is now clearly behind Mr Fillon ahead of second-round voting, making him the favourite to secure the nomination. Before the vote, polls suggested that he could beat Mr Juppé; one pollster, OpinionWay, put the margin at 54% to 46%. But it could be a tough contest. Mr Juppé’s team will not hesitate to strike at what they perceive as the weaknesses of Mr Fillon’s candidacy, in particular his economic liberalism. On paper, his economic programme is the more ambitious, and Mr Juppé will doubtless try to frighten voters by caricaturing his promises to cut back the state and rewrite labour-market rules as Thatcherite, the ultimate insult in French politics.
In other respects too, voters will have a fairly clear choice between the two candidates. Mr Fillon’s social conservatism—for instance, he opposes adoption by gay couples—appeals to Catholic traditionalists within the party. But it could put off younger voters, and those in the centre. He has been strident in his warnings against the threat of “Islamic totalitarianism”, whereas Mr Juppé has sounded a more unifying note with his call for a “happy identity” for the French. And the pair differ over diplomatic policy, notably on how to deal with Russia and Syria. Mr Fillon’s call for a rapprochement with Moscow and Damascus contrasts with Mr Juppé’s consistently hard line.
When voters turn out to make their final choice, however, character and temperament may count for as much as policy differences. What seems to have propelled Mr Fillon into the lead was a convincing performance in the televised debates, during which he came across as measured, sharp and trustworthy. Voters were clearly fed up with Mr Sarkozy, and turned out in massive numbers to back an alternative, but were unsure that the 71-year-old Mr Juppé was quite what they were looking for. Mr Fillon, aged 62, whose hobbies include driving fast cars—he was a guest on the French version of “Top Gear”, a television programme for car enthusiasts—offers a different sort of antidote to the frenetic former president.
The race for the nomination will now focus not only on which of the two candidates would be the best leader for France, but on who is best placed to beat the far-right Marine Le Pen. Polling suggests that the National Front leader will occupy one of the two run-off places at France’s presidential election next spring. Mr Hollande, whose popularity has sunk to 4% in one poll, looks unlikely to secure a place for the Socialists. This will put the Republican nominee in a strong position to become the next French president—but only if he can rally support both within his own centre-right camp, and from voters in the centre and on the left. He will need both to turn out if he expects to defeat Ms Le Pen.
http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21 ... an-primary
So it is very likely that either Alain Juppé or Fillon will face off against Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential elections next year and subsequently become president of France. Both are veterans of the French political scene, having served in various high government positions over the past few decades.
Juppé is the more Europhile, more Centrist and more statist candidate, with a more socially liberal agenda and a more moderate, inclusive approach regarding the Muslim minority of France.
Fillon on the other hand, is more critical of immigration and Islam, more socially conservative, very Thatcherite in his economic views and also in favor of increased cooperation with Russia.
Other points in Fillon´s favor are his clean vest (unlike Juppé who got prosecuted for corruption once) and the fact that he is 10 years younger than Juppé.
Personally, from a Europeanist, Centrist view I´d prefer Juppé (I also think that he would probably form a better working team with Angela Merkel) but I can see the various points speaking in Fillon´s favor.
Most importantly, I think that both men present a credible and presentable alternative to Front National candidate Marine Le Pen and will be a much better choice for the presidency than a clownish trickster like Sarko who tried to out-Le Pen Le Pen.
There are also the Socialist Primaries, but I consider a FN/Republicain standoff in the second round pretty much a given at this point. Hollande is deader than dead. I somewhat like Emanuelle Macron (a young, liberal, centre-left modernizer) but I think that he too is chanceless.
Thoughts, mes amis?