François Fillon, the socially conservative former prime minister who plans to shrink the French state, has won the primary race to become the French right’s presidential candidate next spring.
Fillon, 62, gained support in the final days of the primary race after writing a book on the dangers of “Islamic totalitarianism” in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in France and defending a tough line on French national identity. He beat the more moderate centrist, Alain Juppé, the 71-year-old mayor of Bordeaux.
With 95% of ballots counted, Fillon had garnered 66.5% of the votes while Juppé trailed with 33.2%. Polls in France have consistently shown that the far-right Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, will make it to the final round runoff but that it would be difficult for her to win. Fillon is now the favourite to face her and win the presidency next year.
In his victory speech, Fillon said the Socialist François Hollande’s presidency had been “pathetic”. France “wanted action” and had to be overhauled in a way that it “hasn’t been for 30 years”. He said France had a huge need for respect, pride and, overall, authority.
After a campaign in which he defended French national identity, he said people had voted for him because he represented “French values”. He said “I will defend those values and we will share them with everyone who, with their differences, loves France.”