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France’s Fillon Crushes his Opponents, Sarkozy’s Political Career is Over | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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French politician Francois Fillon (R), member of the conservative Les Republicains political party, arrives after partial results in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election at his headquarters in Paris, France, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Paris – Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s dream of entering the Elise Palace ended for good.

The truth this time was hard to accept by thousands of his supporters since Sarkozy has been preparing for his return after losing to Francois Holland five years ago.

Sarkozy’s plan was simple: winning the nomination of the right and middle to make it to the French presidential final round runoff in May facing Front National leader, Marine Le Pen. Polls’ results expect Le Pen to make it to the second round.

During the preliminary elections, former president Sarkozy expected to win and make it to the elections on Sunday.

Sarkozy believed that the French society is more hard-right, thus he relied in his campaign on more popular speech similar to that of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. He focused French national identity and targeted Muslims and minorities. He also suggested banning Muslim headscarves from universities and banned Burkini.

Sarkozy thought his radical program will bring many hard-right voters and will help him win, however he suffered a humiliating defeat, knocked out of the race after Francois Fillon, who no one viewed as a threat; the latter defied all expectations and won.

Once again polls prove to be wrong as it failed to predict that Fillon will win the top spot and exceed his other two opponents.

According to results based on 9,437 polling stations out of a total 10,229, Fillon was seen garnering 44.2 percent of the votes, Juppe 28.5 percent and Sarkozy 20.6 percent, with close to 4 million votes counted.

Sarkozy delivered a speech before his supporters where he conceded defeat and said he would now back Fillon in the runoff. He added that he felt no bitterness and sadness.

“It’s time for me to try a life with more private passions than public ones,” said Sarkozy.

This transformation in Sarkozy’s speech surprised observers for two reasons. First of all, he always belittled Fillon saying he was his “employee” when he was president. The second was Sarkozy’s announcement of leaving the public life to attend a more private one after he was famous on the public arena for over ten years.

Fillon is favorable to win because of his policies and the support he received from Sarkozy. But, Juppe told supporters he would “carry on fighting” and billed himself as the best option to defeat Marine Le Pen.

Juppe promised a wide range of reforms, yet it will be difficult for him to shift the results even though he only needs additional 6 points to win the candidacy for his party.

“I am not Hillary Clinton, and France is not America,” Juppe said this week, insisting he could be trusted to take swift action on major reform.

The question that all analysts are wondering: what is the reason behind Fillon’s sudden success?

Fillon, 62, is the epitome of the traditional provincial right. He is a Catholic bourgeois from a village in north-west France. His electoral program could be summed up as follows: liberal in economics, conservative in social issues, strict in security and fighting terrorism, and has different foreign policy strategies.

Fillon benefited from the war between Sarkozy and Juppe with the first rejected by the French, while the second was under attack from Sarkozy’s supporters for conspiring with Democratic Movement Party and for sympathizing with Islamic movements. He was even nicknamed “Ali Juppe.”

Fillon has broken ranks with the long-running statist tradition of the French right to propose the most radical pro-business reform program – vowing to cut a staggering 500,000 public sector jobs over five years. He is close to winning the Elise, unless something extraordinary happens.

Attacked for going too far with proposed state cuts by Juppe, Fillon said in his final rally: “I’m tagged with an [economically] liberal label in the same way one would paint crosses on the doors of lepers in the Middle Ages. But I’m just a pragmatist.”