Sarkozy, Juppé or Fillon? French presidential hopefuls battle for every vote
November 20, 2016
The race for France's conservative presidential nomination looked tighter than ever ahead of Sunday's first round of voting, with polls suggesting whoever emerges on top is likely to make it all the way to the Élysée Palace.
French conservatives on Sunday are being asked to pick their preferred candidate from a field of seven politicians vying for the main opposition Les Républicains presidential nomination.
The contest could come down to the wire, with the race narrowing in recent days.
Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé once enjoyed a comfortable lead in opinion polls. But he has seen support dwindle while former French president Nicolas Sarkozy maintains even figures and former prime minister François Fillon surges forward.
Juppé told around 2,000 supporters gathered in Lille that it was not enough to applaud him. “You must also go out and vote,” he declared.
“The job will not be easy. To succeed we will need the right plan, tell people the truth, unlike the populists,” Juppé added in a barely-veiled jab at in-party rival Sarkozy.
Sarkozy meanwhile focused on the place of Islam in France when he addressed his own crowd in the southern city of Nimes, repeating a campaign pledge to ban Muslim veils in universities and wage a “relentless war” against Islamist “barbarians”.
“Integration must be replaced by assimilation,” the former president said in reference to young Muslims who he blames for flouting French laws. “One chooses to come to France for its values, not for its welfare.”
Fillon’s last campaign appearance took place in Paris, where the 3,500-seat Palais des Congrès conference centre was filled to capacity. Two conference rooms in nearby hotels were rented out by his campaign to take in overflow from the main venue.
Half of Fillon’s speech was devoted to his plans to deregulate France’s economy. “I want to give the country back its liberty,” he declared, promising to give more power to business owners and cut back on public spending if he becomes president.
Only the two candidates with the most votes will move on to a run-off poll on November 27.
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