Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe progress through to the next round in the race to decide who will likely face off against Front National leader Marine Le Pen in the country’s presidential elections next year.
Former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe were seen qualifying for a second round runoff of France’s conservative primaries on Sunday, first partial results of the vote showed, in what would be a major upset for ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.
If the voting trend is confirmed the two men will go head-to-head on Nov. 27, with the winner of that contest likely to win election as France’s next president in May.
According to results based on 6,491 polling stations out of a total 10,228, Fillon was seen gathering 43.5 percent of the votes, Juppe 27.6 percent and Sarkozy 22.1 percent, with the gap with Sarkozy widening from the first partial results.
But while the establishment media and the polls still stress a likely victory for Les Republicains over the Front National next year, Ms. Le Pen improved her position against Mr. Sarkozy ahead of today’s primary.
A number of different scenarios are currently being analysed, depending on whom her opponents choose to face her in April and May next year.
According to recent numbers by Ipsos, Mr. Juppe would beat Ms. Le Pen in the second round of voting next year.
But the Front National chief has been buoyed by the anti-establishment victories of Brexit in the United Kingdom, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States. This Western fight back against the political mainstream, she hopes, will catapult her into the Elysee Palace next year.
“If Trump is possible, then everything is possible. Nothing, from now on, is unimaginable,” French philsopher Bernard Henri-Lévy told The Telegraph, adding: “The people listen less and less to policy and they even seem less concerned about whether the candidates are telling the truth or not”.
And today’s result has also dealt a blow to psephologists and election commentators.
Mr. Sarkozy was expected to sail through to the next round in the primaries, while Francois Fillon was expected to lose.
According to French pollsters, a victory for Mr. Sarkozy provided the path of least resistence to the presidency for Ms. Le Pen, though critics of Les Republicains privately argue that Mr. Juppe’s prior criminal conviction for abuse of public funds also makes him weaker against Ms. Le Pen.
As of Sunday evening, Mr. Fillon — a former Sarkozy appointee and economic neo-liberal — is the favourite to be the next French president.
The Socialist Party is not expected to progress beyond the first round of voting next year.