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    French politician Francois Fillon, member of the conservative Les Republicains political party, delivers a speech at his campaign headquarters after partial results in the first round of the French center-right presidential primary election vote in Paris, France, November 20, 2016.

    Sarkozy Ally, Liberal, Conservative... Who is the Real Francois Fillon?

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    France’s former Prime Minister Francois Fillon was officially registered as the Republicans party’s candidate in next year’s presidential elections. According to recent opinion polls, 62-year-old Fillon is widely seen as the likeliest candidate for the country’s top job.

    A life in politics

    Francois Fillon entered politics as a 22-year-old young man spending some time working as an assistant to parliamentary deputy from his native Sarthe region.

    Six years later he was elected to the National Assembly and at the age of 39 he received his first Cabinet post as Minister of Higher Education and Research under President François Mitterrand.

    In 2007 he served as campaign manager of Nicolas Sarkozy and became Prime Minister later in the year. After Socialist Francois Hollande became President in 2012, Fillon resigned and was elected to the National Assembly.

    In November 2016, Francois Fillion won the presidential nomination of the Republicans party with 66.5 percent of center-right votes.

    Conservative and liberal

    Francois Fillon is widely regarded as a conservative in social politics and a reformist liberal in economics. He favors radical changes to the country’s migration laws in order to stem the tide of migrants seeking a better life in France.

    As a presidential candidate, Fillon aims to reduce the public sector, cut 500,000 civil-service jobs and switch to a 39-hour workweek with no additional pay.

    He also wants to increase the Value Added Tax to 22 percent from 20 percent now, slash state spending by 110 million euros and increase the retirement age to 65.

    A true-blue Gaullist, Fillon is an advocate of an independent foreign policy. He wants to restore contacts with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the war on terrorism.

    As for Western diplomacy in general, and French in particular, it has stubbornly refused to talk to Assad thus sidelining itself from the ongoing search for ways to end the Syrian crisis,” Fillon said in an interview.

    He insists on the need to establish an international coalition with Russia to fight terrorism.

    “While the West looks on, Russia, Iran and Turkey are working to resolve the Syrian crisis without us,” he said.

    Without questioning France’s strategic union with the United States, Francois Fillon slams President Hollande’s policy towards Russia as “absurdist” and “a failure,” calls for an end to the anti-Russian sanctions and blames Kiev for the failure of the Minsk accords.

    Experience and respectability

    “Francois Fillion is an advocate of Realpolitik,” Alexander Orlov, Director of the Institute of International Studies in Moscow, told RIA Novosti.

    He added that Fillon’s impressive track record as a politician is a testament to a wealth of experience accumulated during his longtime work with various political forces, from Gaullist Conservatives all the way to leftwing politicians.

    “I see him as a realistically-minded politician, who is able to rise above existing ideological canons,” said Dmitry Danilov, Director of the Department of European Security at the Institute of Europe think tank.

    He added that Fillon differs from Nicolas Sarkozy in that he is more reserved and pragmatically-minded compared to his fellow Republican.

    Russia-friendly

    Francois Fillon is also described as someone who, although a representative of the traditional, conservative Western establishment, still takes a more realistic view of Russia’s interests than many of his Western colleagues.

    “If elected, he will hardly change his views, including on Russia, but he will still have to act in a more balanced way and look for mutually-acceptable compromises both in and outside the country,” Dmitry Danilov observed.

    “Soured relations with Russia are the worst thing Fillon will inherit from Hollande and which he will certainly try to restore if he becomes President,” Alexander Orlov added.

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    liberal, conservative, political background, presidential candidate, Dmitry Danilov, Alexander Orlov, Francois Hollande, Francois Fillon, France
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