Fillon wins France’s conservative primary

135862121_14802954364461nFormer Prime Minister Francois Fillon won the conservative primary runoff on Sunday and is set to represent the biggest opposition party in the 2017 French presidential race, according to partial results the runoff.

After counting ballots in 8,081 out of a total of 10,228 polling stations, the 62-year-old liberal politician led the runoff with 67.4 percent of the vote, against his moderate rival Alain Juppe who collected 32.6 percent while the counting was still underway.

“It is a fundamental victory built on convictions. Progressively, I felt this wave broke all the written scenarios in advance. My approach was understood,” Fillon told supporters.

“The future is ahead of us. We have all the assets to be a sovereign nation, to lead Europe. Now, I have the duty to convince the whole country that our project is the only one that can lift us up,” he added.

Serving as prime minister from 2007-2012, under the leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy who was kicked off last Sunday, Fillon has lagged for months behind the duel of Juppe-Sarkozy. He gained a spectacular momentum a week ahead the primary first round following a late surge in campaigning.

Advocating for pro market reforms, Fillon presented “more radical project,” based on a slash of 500,000 public sector jobs, twice as Juppe pledged, lower corporate taxes and wanted people to work more in a move to clinch public spending and revive economy.

On foreign policy, he has expressed his Russia-related stance, calling on Paris and Moscow to “sit down around the same table” to enhance bilateral ties and help to end war in Syria and Iraq.

Admitting his defeat, Juppe, 71, who had long been the polls’ favorite, “congratulate Francois Fillon for his great victory.”

“I support him and I wish him good luck for his presidential campaign and the victory in May,” he told supporters after results were released.

His concession means the U.S.-style primary, the first ever held by French conservatives, had chosen Fillon to be the center-right’s favorite to challenge the Socialist ruling party and to challenge a risk of mounting populism echoed by the far-right National Front party.

According to the center-right authority, turnout of the Sunday’s runoff reached more than 2.9 million, 4.5 percent more than the first round and far beyond the party’s previous expectation of two million. (Courtesy Xinhua)