François Fillon will be the conservative candidate in the 2017 presidential election after a crushing victory over his rival Alain Juppé in this Sunday’s primary election run-off. With most of the votes declared, the former prime minister has picked up two-thirds of the vote. This emphatic win on the back of a turnout of well over four million voters will give Fillon a huge springboard for next spring’s presidential elections. For months Fillon languished in the polls, far behind his former boss Nicolas Sarkozy and the pollsters’ favourite Juppé, the 71-year-old mayor of Bordeaux. But in the final days before last week’s first round in the primary Fillon’s support suddenly surged and he won that contest with more than 44% of the vote. This Sunday’s stunning victory has confirmed that surge. In his victory speech Fillon said: “If in 2017 we take things firmly in hand then our country will go far, for nothing can get in the way of a people who want to take their future in their hands.” But the 62-year-old faces tough questions ahead about his radical programme for government. These will likely focus on three main areas: his social conservatism, his economic liberalism – including his plan to axe half a million public sector posts – and his foreign policy and in particular his desire for closer relations with Russia. Nonetheless Fillon now stands a good chance of being France’s next head of state, given the splits and divisions on the Left and the unlikelihood that France will ultimately vote for the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen to be President of the Republic next May. Follow the results and reactions in this crucial primary election here.
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