Most of our readers in the United States are probably so sick of hearing about elections at this point that you’re ready to throw something at me right now, but don’t worry! These are elections in Europe. The French held their next round of presidential primaries today (which I’m sure American liberals would declare racist because they didn’t have months of voting) to determine the general election candidate for the “center right.” It was a battle between ex-premier Francois Fillon and another former prime minister, Alain Juppe. Fillon is described as an “economic radical” and social conservative. When the dust settled, Fillon won it running away. (Reuters)
With votes from four-fifths of 10,228 polling stations counted, Fillon, who went into Sunday’s second-round run-off as firm favorite, had won over 67 percent of the vote in a head-to-head battle with another ex-prime minister, Alain Juppe.
“I must now convince the whole country our project is the only one that can lift us up,” a visibly moved Fillon said at his campaign headquarters after Juppe conceded defeat.
All eyes now turn to the ruling Socialist party and to whether the deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande will decide to run for the left-wing ticket in his party’s primaries in January, amid signs that his prime minister, Manuel Valls, is considering a bid of his own.
This is a multi-stage process and Fillon will go on in the spring to face… you guessed it… Marine Le Pen. They will also face the socialist candidate which might be the current president, Francois Hollande. But his approval numbers are currently at the point where he’s probably jealous of the ratings Donald Trump was pulling in September. If the socialists are knocked out in the first round as the polling suggests, Fillon and Le Pen will be the last two standing for the runoff election.
Why is that remarkable in this generally socialist nation? Because we already know where Le Pen stands in terms of getting out of the EU and dumping the Euro, etc. but Fillon is a rare beast in France as well. The AP described him this way before the primary.
Fillon, a career politician and prime minister from 2007-12, has warned that France is “on the verge of revolt” and believes his plan to slash 500,000 public sector jobs and business regulations is the tonic the demoralised country needs.
The devout Catholic and motor racing fan has also won support with his hard line on Muslim immigrants, as well as an emphasis on protecting France’s identity, language and family values.
So Fillon wants to fire hundreds of thousands of government workers, slash taxes to stimulate the economy, crack down on immigration and Muslim extremists, opposes gay marriage and wants to defend traditional French national identity. (Make France Great Again?) Wait a minute… are you sure we’re talking about France here?
Either way, if this is how it plays out we’re going to be looking at a very different scene in France when this is over. And it’s probably one which will make for a much better fit in terms of relations with the United States under the new president. 2016 continues to just be so very, very 2016.