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Conservative Francois Fillon wins French presidential primary

Conservative Francois Fillon wins French presidential primary

PARIS: Francois Fillon, a conservative reformist promising to shrink the French state, on Sunday clinched the rightwing nomination for next year’s presidential election with a resounding victory over his rival Alain Juppe.

Ex-prime minister Fillon, 62, will now become a favourite to be France’s next leader after winning the US-style primary to pick the nominee of the Republicans party and its allies.

Near-complete results showed him winning 66.5 percent of the vote, with ballots counted from 9,915 polling stations out of 10,229.

In a victory speech, the amateur rally driver said he had “torn up all the pre-written scripts” as he sped past his rivals in the last weeks of the campaign.

“France can no longer bear its decline. France wants the truth and France wants action,” he told cheering supporters after Juppe, a centrist, conceded defeat.

The French presidential vote is seen as a key test for mainstream political parties after the success of Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign in Britain, both of which harnessed anti-elite anger.

Fillon will face fierce competition in the two-round election in April and May from far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the anti-establishment candidate hoping to emulate Trump’s shock victory in the US.

Fillon said a win for the anti-EU Le Pen would spell “bankruptcy”.

Two surveys late Sunday put Fillon ahead of Le Pen in the first round of the election, with the left-wing candidates trailing further behind.

Promising to be the candidate of “all those who in their hearts are proud to be French,” he pledged to turn the page on a “pathetic” Socialist presidency.

Turnout in the primary stood at around four million, roughly the same as in the first round of voting a week ago when Fillon came from behind to lead a field of seven candidates.

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