However, a new era beckons with the rise of Fillon, who has already made French political history in having fought the first primary in recent times, where its leader, Sarkozy, was forced to face a challenge. Sarkozy went out in the first round, leaving Fillon to face-off — and decisively beat — ex-Prime Minister Alain Juppe in the second round, November 27.
Fillon is a man in the image of Britain's Margaret Thatcher — a center-right, free market, small government politician. He is also sceptical about Brussels and the whole EU political machine.
Although he believes in free trade, he is wary of the burdens of the burgeoning Brussels bureaucracy.
He is also pro-British — being married to a Welsh woman — and has strong UK connections, which could well play a significant factor in the Brexit negotiations over Britain's new relationship with the EU after it formally leaves the union.
Nicole Ameline, a Republican lawmaker who worked with Fillon under Jacques Chirac, told the BBC: "He is coming to power with the most radically right-wing program ever since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.. His program is about family values, authority, law and order and the free market.
"One of the reasons for his popularity is because of the extreme weakness of the left, so it will be a contest between the extreme right and him," Ameline said.
Significantly, the Socialists — so far — under the incumbent Francois Hollande are nowhere in sight, with the French president having disastrously low popularity ratings and his party divided over reforms to France's heavily codified labor laws and a backlash over his handling of the economy and response to the terror attacks that have hit France over the past two years.
So now — for the first time in decades — France is on track for a vote between Fillon — on the center-right — and the only other candidate with a chance, the right-wing Front National party leader Marine Le Pen.