“Fillon is at the centre of gravity of the traditional right,” Pascal Perrineau, a professor at Sciences Po, says. “They are normally a quiet bunch, but they have woken up with the gay marriage law.”
If these voters confirm their support in a second round of voting on Sunday, France will come closer to having its own “Margaret Thatcher moment”. Like the former British premier, Mr Fillon is far from being an EU enthusiast and favours economic “shock” therapy, vowing to cut 500,000 civil service jobs and reduce the welfare state to fund €50bn in tax breaks for companies.
A free-market revolution would be a novelty in France, a nation built on the idea of a strong state and which is prone to periodic labour unrest. But a significant portion of the rightwing electorate now believes that previous attempts to save the eurozone’s second-largest economy from decline have failed.
“I thought for a long time that the country was difficult to reform,” Mr Fillon told the Financial Times in Paris earlier this month. “But if you show strong determination to the unions, if you use the presidential election to debate those measures and if you implement them quickly after being elected, it’s feasible.”
Polls suggest that, as the centre-right’s candidate, he would be well placed to qualify for the presidential runoff next year given the unpopularity of President François Hollande. He would in all likelihood face Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, and would probably beat her.
The Telegraph reports:
France is expected to elect its first truly Thatcherite leader of the Right on Sunday, with François Fillon in pole position to take on an ebullient far-Right Front National
Seen as a no-hoper even a month ago, one last-minute poll sees Mr Fillon, a former prime minister, winning the presidential primary nomination for his Republicans party with 61 per cent of the vote against 39 per cent for his older, more moderate rival, Alain Juppé.
The race has attracted huge interest in France, drawing four million voters to the polls in the first round, because the winner stands a high chance as things stand of becoming French president next year in a run-off against FN leader Marine Le Pen.
Fillon first showed up on my radar in 2009: France Rejects Obama Style Stimulus.