07:58 GMT26 October 2020
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    France’s former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, labeled "the most pro-Russian candidate" by local media for his views on the French foreign policy, is about to win the nomination of The Republicans party, despite forecasts having predicted his rival's victory, and hence will participate in the 2017 presidential elections in the country.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Fillon is leading in Sunday's runoff with 66.5 percent of center-right votes with the majority of votes counted, according to the preliminary results of the second round of the primaries. The exact results will be announced later on Monday.

    The French presidential election is scheduled for April and May 2017.

    Despite Forecasts

    A few months ago, seven candidates entered into the struggle for The Republicans Nomination, including, Fillon and Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppe, as well as French former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

    According to initial projections, Juppe was most likely to win the primaries, while Fillion was expected to receive the third or the forth place.

    Through a series of debates, Fillion managed to show he was capable to uphold the advantages of his program, making his ratings grow unprecedentedly.

    On November 20, Fillon and Juppe scored highest in public support in the first round of The Republicans primaries with the former securing 44 percent of center-right voters while the latter, who has been long thought to become the frontrunner, ended with just 28 percent.

    Victory Recognition

    On Sunday, soon after the announcement of the first preliminary results, Juppe conceded his defeat in the runoff and wished his challenger victory in the May presidential election.

    "I finish this campaign as I started it, as a free man," he said in a speech at his campaign headquarters, as cited by the French broadcaster BFMTV.

    On his part, Fillon paid attention to Juppe’s outstanding qualities as a statesperson and thanked him for the kind words.

    Both candidates thanked those who organized the primaries for wellconducted voting with high turnout.

    On the same day, Sarkozy congratulated Fillon on winning the nomination of The Republicans party.

    "I want to convey my sincere congratulations to Francois Fillon on his victory tonight and wish him luck in the upcoming political battle," Hollande wrote in a statement.

    He praised Fillon’s challenger Juppe for defending his ideas but added the moment has come for the center-right party to rally around Fillon to "guarantee a change that France needs more than ever in 2017."

    Most Russia-Friendly Candidate

    Both republican candidates Juppe and Fillon have called for a change in the country's foreign policy in the wake of the unsuccessful presidency of Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande. They stressed the necessity to conduct pension and labor reforms as well as to reduce public expenditure among the others.

    Fillion, who is conservative with regard to social matters and liberal with regard to economy, has proposed more radical changes than Juppe, who insisted on pursuance of a soft approach and regarded Fillon’s plans as impossible.

    Moreover, Fillion has supported an approach on the foreign policy which seriously contradicts the current Paris policies. In particular, he has called for resuming ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad to fight Daesh terrorist group, and for cooperation with Russia in fighting international terrorism.

    Thus, during the primaries Fillon was often labeled as the most pro-Russian candidate and has often been criticized for a warm attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. Fillon earned a reputation of pro-Kremlin supporter when three years ago at one symposium in Russia, sitting next to Putin, he criticized Hollande's policy as too Atlantist. During his campaign, Fillon has reiterated his aspirations for normalization of ties with Moscow, arguing that France should talk to Putin "disregarding our differences but without provocations".

    On Wednesday, Putin praised Fillon, saying that "we [Fillon and Putin] have certain personal relations, very good ones. Mr. Fillon, in my view, differs much from politicians in today's world."

    "He is somewhat closed, non-public, but with all his European manners, in the best sense of the word, he is able to defend his viewpoint… He is a tough negotiator in this sense. He is certainly a professional to the highest degree and an honest person," Putin added, speaking about Fillon.

    On Saturday, the former French defense minister and a lawmaker from The Republicans party Gerard Longuet told Sputnik that Fillon could narrow differences between Europe and Russia if he becomes France’s next president.

    "An understanding with Russia is in the interest of right-wing voters… Francois Fillon would use France’s diplomatic authority to try to reach an agreement between Europe and Russia," Longuet said.

    On Thursday, Fillon and Juppe held final debates before the second round of primaries. Fillon attacked the policy of Hollande with regard to Russia and called for restoring cooperation with Moscow, saying that France should restore its ties with Russia in order to cooperate in the fight against Islamists.

    "If we do not create conditions for effective international coalition, if we refuse to ally with Russia, Islamic totalitarianism will continue to wreak the havoc," Fillon said at the final rally in Paris.

    On Friday, the head of the French Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, Fabien Baussart, told Sputnik that Fillon was the only presidential hopeful capable of establishing a dialogue with Russia.

    "This is the only candidate who has a geostrategic vision, who understands Russia and can engage in dialogue with Russia … He would not defend Russian interests, he would promote the interests of France, but doing it as a friend," Baussart said about Fillon's possible presidency.


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