Fillon & Juppe clash for French Republican presidential nomination

Former French prime ministers Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon will compete in the second round of the Republican primaries on Sunday to determine the party’s presidential nominee for the 2017 election.

In the first round of the Republican Party primary held on November 20, Fillon, who served as the prime minister from 2007-2012, won 44.1 percent of the vote, beating Juppe, who secured 28.6 percent. 

The two are vying for the presidential nomination of France’s Republican party. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy was eliminated from the race after securing a slightly more than 20 percent during the first round.

Fillon is a surprise frontrunner who heads into the runoff on November 27 after being “more convincing” during the two hour TV debate with his rival Juppe, who was prime minister of France from 1995 to 1997 under President Jacques Chirac.

In next year’s presidential election, the conservative nominee’s toughest competition is likely to come from the right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Polls in the build-up to the primaries showed Le Pen ahead in the first round of next year’s vote, with a Republican candidate also making it to the runoff. France goes to the polls in April 2017 for the presidential election with the second round scheduled to be held in May.

While both are running as Republicans, Fillon and Juppe stand on different platforms. In terms of foreign policy, Fillon is seen as having little experience with international affairs. Juppe, on the other hand, was in office when the Arab Spring unfolded in the wider Middle East.

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Fillon, unlike his rival, has a positive outlook on Paris’ relations with Moscow. Unlike Juppe, who sees Russia as more of a threat to be contained, the 62-year-old has called Moscow a “crucial partner” for Europe and has supported calls for the lifting of sanctions against Russia.

The two hopefuls also diverge on Syria. Seventy-one-year-old Juppe said Russia had committed “war crimes” in Syria, while Fillon wants closer cooperation with Moscow in fighting terrorism.

Fillon is the author of a book called, “Beating Islamic Totalitarianism,” and advocates a hard line against Islamist terrorism at home. He wants to bar French jihadists from returning to France after fighting in Syria or Iraq by stripping them of their citizenship.

Juppe has a somewhat softer approach to terrorism and supports the arrest of jihadists returning from Iraq or Syria. He has also made calls to place suspected Islamist radicals who pose a threat under house arrest.

On the economic front, Fillon advocates tough free-market positions.

His economic proposals include cutting 500,000 to 600,000 civil servant jobs and cutting public spending by €110 billion ($117bn). He also wants to raise the retirement age from the current 62 years to 65 years and VAT rates by 3.5 percent. The Republican also advocates for ending the 35-hour work week, allowing unions to negotiate up to 48-hour working weeks.

Juppe has similar proposals but without the shock therapy. His proposals include firing only 250,000 civil servant jobs and cutting public spending by €100 billion ($106bn). The 71-year-old wants to end job guarantees for civil servants, and increase the work week to 38 hours. Just like Fillon, Juppe wants to raise the retirement age. He also wants to increase VAT rates by 1 percent.

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On social policy, the 62-year-old Fillon, for instance, opposes same-sex partners adopting children. Such a conservative agenda has allowed him to secure votes among anti-gay marriage groups. He also advocates making it harder for children born to foreign surrogate mothers to obtain French citizenship.

Juppe, while on the campaign trail, stated that he does not plan to amend the 2013 gay marriage law to prohibit adoptions or change France’s adoption rules.