Fillon found 'more convincing' than Juppe in final primary debate


26 November, 2016

Television viewers gave victory in the debate to Fillon, reflecting a poll Wednesday that showed he would win 65 percent of votes on Sunday against 35 percent for Juppe.

The Republicans candidate is widely expected to face far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen in a runoff vote in the presidential election next May.

Juppe is set to get 83 percent of the votes of left-wing voters and 66 percent of votes of centrist party sympathisers, the poll said.

After officials in Moscow, including president Vladimir Putin, praised Fillon in the wake of the primary's first round, Juppe quipped that he was "surprised that, for the first time, the Russian leader chooses his candidate".

An admirer of late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - not at all a popular figure in France - Fillon stood down big street protests in 2003 when he championed reforms extending the age at which people are entitled to retirement pension payments.

But François Fillon, a former prime minister and amateur racing driver, surged from nowhere to take a stunning lead in the French centre-right Republican primary on November 20th. 'I will use all the means and any countries that want to combat ISIS, ' Fillon highlighted.

"He's a tough negotiator", Putin mentioned, adding that the former French prime minister is "certainly an ultimate professional, and a decent man".

"I think I am best placed with my programme to beat Marine Le Pen", Juppe said yesterday, referring to the nationalist and anti-immigration boss of the National Front.

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One of the points of greatest difference relates to the relationship with Russia: Juppé said he was in favor of dialogue with Moscow but at the same time keeping a distance, while Fillon advocates establishing an alliance in order to fight the Islamic State more effectively.

France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who spoke with Fillon about his comments, said that although Jewish groups may in the past have lived in relative isolation from wider society, that was "in no way Jewish citizens' choice, but the effect of French society not accepting their peers at the time".

During the debate, Juppe insisted on his attachment to France's diversity.

He and Mr Juppe were the survivors of a field of seven candidates including Nicolas Sarkozy who lost the presidency to Mr Hollande in 2012 and failed to convince his party to let him have another tilt at the top job. The pollsters are the same ones who said Britain would not leave Europe and Mr Trump had no chance of winning.

There have been no polls this month on the May 7 run-off but previous polls forecast that Le Pen would lose it to a mainstream, conservative candidate.

With France's ruling left bitterly divided, the campaign has been heavily influenced by the populist forces behind Britain's vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's shock victory in the USA election.

Le Pen says she wants to ditch the euro and organise a referendum on France's EU membership - a move that would put the future of European integration at stake.

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