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French politicians Alain Juppe (R) and Francois Fillon are seen on stage as they attend the third prime-time televised debate in Paris, November 24.
French politicians Alain Juppe (R) and Francois Fillon are seen on stage as they attend the third prime-time televised debate in Paris, November 24.

Fillon Seen as Favorite to Beat Juppe for Conservative Nomination

Fillon Seen as Favorite to Beat Juppe for Conservative Nomination

Former prime minister Francois Fillon looked on Friday to be in a strong position to claim his center-right party’s nomination to contest next year’s French presidential election as he and rival Alain Juppe held final rallies of the primary campaign.
In an impassioned speech to supporters in Paris, Fillon, 62, struck a strong patriotic note, vowing to halt “the decline of France” under the ruling Socialists by sticking to what he said was a realistic program that included ending the 35-hour working week and making big savings by slashing public spending, Reuters reported.
Juppe, 71, also a former prime minister, defended his more moderate policies, telling supporters: “I’m not going to engage in any grandstanding against our public service. I want to manage, not demonize, it.”
A new survey issued on Friday night saw Fillon as clear favorite, winning Sunday’s vote with 61% against Juppe’s 39%.
The ballot on Sunday will send one of the two veteran conservatives into an electoral battle that opinion polls say will boil down finally to a duel with far-right leader Marine Le Pen next May.
Fillon, who defied predictions to emerge as surprise winner of Les Republicain’ first-round primary on Nov. 20, is tipped to win the second round with two-thirds of the vote. He was also boosted by a convincing performance in a televised debate.
Le Pen’s National Front party, which is anti-immigrant and anti-European Union, has made big inroads against mainstream left- and right-wing parties as France struggles with a jobless rate of 10% and insipid economic growth. The Paris massacre and other militant attacks have also fueled support.
But with President Francois Hollande’s socialists in disarray and opinion polls showing a majority of voters opposed to seeing the far-right in power, many pollsters are seeing Fillon - France’s closest thing to a genuine conservative on both economic and social issues - as having the best chance of becoming president.

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