Sarkozy Out of France Center-Right Primary

Sarkozy Out of France Center-Right PrimarySarkozy Out of France Center-Right Primary

French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy has been knocked out of a primary to choose the presidential candidate of the center-right Republican party.

Admitting defeat, Sarkozy endorsed Francois Fillon, a moderate who finished first in Sunday’s first round, according to near-complete results.

Alain Juppe, who like Fillon is an ex-prime minister, finished second. They will face each other in a runoff next Sunday. The winner will compete in next year’s presidential election, BBC reported.

The winner of the Republican primary will probably face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

With the governing socialists unpopular and divided, it seems unlikely that any left-wing candidate will survive the first round in April.

Polls currently suggest that the center-right candidate would win the second round in May.

In his concession speech, Sarkozy, 61, said: “I have no bitterness, I have no sadness, and I wish the best for my country.” He told reporters he now supported Fillon, 62, whose “political choices” he said were closer to his own than Juppe’s.

Fillon served as Sarkozy’s prime minister during the latter’s presidency between 2007 and 2012.

An anglophile, Fillon admires Margaret Thatcher and said the result showed a strong movement of hope was underway. He had promised deep market reforms and was initially not seen as the top contender. Howeve, he has enjoyed a late surge in polls.

Juppe, 71, was regarded as the frontrunner for most of the primary race. A former prime minister with a technocratic image, he had campaigned as a moderate and a unifying figure in the aftermath of terrorist attacks.

Sarkozy was widely seen as a more divisive and combative figure than his leading rivals. In recent years, he has been involved in a high-profile scandal over the breach of campaign spending limits in the 2012 election. In September, a judge ruled that Sarkozy should stand trial in the case.

Turnout in the primary first round was higher than anticipated, with almost four million people taking part.

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