After a completely unexpected win in the French center-right presidential primary’s first round, former Prime Minister François Fillon will face another former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé in this Sunday’s run-off primary vote. French voters are being asked to choose between the more socially and fiscally conservative Fillon and a more establishment-friendly Juppé.
Fillon has taken a hard line on Muslim assimilation in France in the past, steering through legislation that banned full veils for Muslim women. The most popular description of Fillon in the media today is that he is a French “Thatcherite.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times calls Alain Juppé the anti-thesis of Donald Trump.
Promising a “strong state,” he had a warning for his audience deep in the Burgundian countryside at St.-Julien-du-Sault: “The world is becoming more and more dangerous. Nationalism is on the rise.”
Similarly, at a rally this week in northern Paris, the perceived menace of rising populism was a common theme in the speeches and comments of Mr. Juppé’s supporters.
From Mr. Juppé himself and the other center-right speakers who preceded him, Mr. Trump’s name came up often. Each time, it was met with loud boos from the crowd of around 6,000. Mr. Juppé — “a man of culture,” one speaker called him — was depicted as the antithesis of Mr. Trump.
“After the election of Donald Trump, after Brexit, will populism triumph in our country? No!” shouted Patrick Devedjian, a former minister, who introduced Mr. Juppé at the rally.
The crowd — mostly middle-aged or older, buttoned-up and carefully dressed, like Mr. Juppé — roared approval. “We’ve had it up to here with populist baseness!” Mr. Devedjian said.
The shadow behind the primary is Marine Le Pen and her Front National Party, waiting to compete with both the conservative and socialist candidates in the general election. Le Pen has taken a massive lead over other candidates in a recent Ipsos poll on the race. Today it appears that Le Pen will face off against the winner of the conservative primary in the eventual runoff election for the office of president.