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Francois Fillon wins first round of French conservative primary


11-22-2016 05:15 BJT

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STRASBOURG, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- The political landscape of France has been upended, the tables have been turned.

After the first round of voting in the French presidential primaries for right and center parties, ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was formally eliminated.

Former prime minister Francois Fillon finished ahead of Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppe and has been anointed -- to much surprise -- as the new champion of the French right.

Against all expectations, Fillon seems well on the point of being nominated by his political family to lead the combat for the leadership of the French republic next May.

Certainly, he will only be nominated by his colleagues after he has won the duel against his rival Juppe during the second round of voting which will be held on Sunday.

But his hefty lead on the mayor of Bordeaux, who had for months been a favorite in polls, places him in a comfortable position. This is even more the case as he receives more and more endorsements from other political figures.

The results of the primary defied all predictions. With more than 44 percent of the votes, Fillon dominated the first round. Juppe, who adopted a more centrist stance, received 28.6 percent of the vote.

But the principle victim of the first round is incontestably the former head of state Nicolas Sarkozy, who finished in third place with 20.6 percent of the vote.

"More than an elimination, a humiliation; a magisterial blow," the French press commented after the results. Since Sunday evening, Sarkozy announced he will support Fillon, and that he counted on dedicating himself to other activities.

Other primary hopefuls together earned less than seven percent of the vote.

With more than 4 million voters, this primary beats the turnout for the socialist primary in autumn 2011, which brought together 2.7 million voters for the first round, and close to 2.9 million for the second.

The surprise finish by Fillon has called into question the credibility of pollsters and media outlets. As with Brexit and the U.S. elections, they were largely off target with their predictions.

Should Fillon be victorious or not next Sunday at the second round of voting in the primaries of the right and center, the rest of the French political establishment will need to reposition itself as well.

President Francois Hollande will be watching closely even though it is still uncertain whether he will stand for reelection as the head of the French republic.

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