Fillon wins France's conservative primary for presidential election

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon has declared victory in France's first-ever conservative presidential primary, beating a more moderate rival who had warned of encroaching populism.

According to the partial results announced by the committee of the conservative primary runoff, Fillon gained 68.2 per cent of the votes in the decisive round against 31.8 per cent for his contender Alain Juppe, Xinhua news agency reported. "It wants the truth, and it wants action", he said on Sunday evening.

Now, in Sunday's primary run-off with Juppe, Fillon has completed his victory, easily defeating him 67 percent to 33 percent.

He had garnered around 44% of the vote in the first round of the primary last week in which five other candidates, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy, were eliminated.

Francois Fillon, candidate in Sunday's second round of the French center-right presidential primary elections, members of the conservative Les Republicains political party, leaves after a meeting with deputies in Paris, France, November 22, 2016.

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Admitting his defeat, Juppe, 71, who had always been the polls' favorite, "congratulate Francois Fillon for his great victory".

Whether it was his liberal plans for the economy (he's a fan of Margaret Thatcher), or his Catholic conservatism on issues of French identity and society that won him the most support, he's now the man currently tipped as the favourite for the country's presidential race next year.

Polls suggest the sober, authoritative Fillon, 62, have a strong chance of winning the French presidency in the election scheduled to take place on April-May.

Mr Fillon's toughest challenge ahead is likely to be far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Like Mr Fillon, Mr Juppe had pledged to cut public sector jobs - but only half as many - saying a more gradual response was needed in a country where trade unions still have significant clout.

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Now the spotlight falls on the Socialist party, and whether the deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande will stand again in his party's primaries in January. His policy proposals include ending the 35-hour working week, scrapping wealth tax, raising VAT, limiting adoption for same-sex couples and overhauling the Schengen agreement.

Their former economy minister Emmanuel Macron would get 13 to 14 percent of the votes.

A 62-year-old racing vehicle enthusiast who lives in a Loire valley chateau, Fillon promises radical reforms to France's regulation-encumbered economy, vowing to roll back the state and slash government's bloated costs. Mr Sarkozy then threw his weight behind Mr Fillon.

The only point in Fillon's platform that Philippot welcomed was his pro-Russia stance.

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