Can Fillon Beat Le Pen?

Given the current political field in French politics, François Fillon will most likely face Marine Le Pen in the presidential election’s second round next May. Those who fear a Le Pen presidency are again putting their faith in the old “pacte républicain,” whereby centrist and leftist voters turn out to push Fillon over the line.

CAMBRIDGE – In the French Republican party’s presidential primary on Sunday, François Fillon soundly defeated frontrunner Alain Juppé, winning close to 67% of the votes.

Two weeks ago, a landslide victory for the apparent underdog seemed out of the question. It had long been expected that Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux and a former prime minister under President Jacques Chirac, would beat the other frontrunner, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a second-round runoff. Instead, Fillon, a former prime minister under Sarkozy, emerged from the first round with a commanding lead, winning 44% of the vote. The outcome was a humiliating one for Sarkozy, who received just a little over 20% support, and effectively ended his political career.

For many observers, the vote invoked the specter of June’s Brexit referendum and US President-elect Donald Trump’s victory earlier this month. Opinion polls placing Fillon as a distant third were proven wrong, partly because many voters seem to have made up their minds just days before the vote. Social media were also credited, again, with playing a key role. In the last debates before the vote, Fillon presented himself as a credible alternative to Juppé and Sarkozy.

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