PARIS, Nov. 21 (UPI) — Conservative French voters shifted their support unexpectedly Sunday, delivering former President Nicholas Sarkozy a defeat in the presidential primary contest and lifting two former prime ministers into a run-off election next week.
Former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe will face off on Nov. 27 for their party’s candidate to run against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, whose anti-Europe and anti-immigration stances have gained traction with voters in France.
France is expected to take a rightward swing politically as president Francois Hollande has horrid approval rates and Le Pen’s nationalist and isolationist views have taken hold there as they have in many other countries around the world. In an interview last week, Le Pen specifically said she’d been emboldened by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump‘s victory on Nov. 8.
Sarkozy did not have much of a chance, as he has largely not led in polls. Fillon, who has fallen third or fourth in polls for months, picked up 44 percent of the vote to finish first. Juppe had 28 percent and Sarkozy landed third with 21 percent.
While French voters seemingly repudiated Sarkozy, analysts say the solid win by Fillon means there is a less of a chance of Le Pen being election — so the country may swing center-right, instead of far-right.
“Good news for Europe,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg economics in London, told Bloomberg. “The risk that a widespread yearning for change in France could sweep far-right Marine Le Pen to power next year has receded.”
Le Pen has led polls continuously for next April’s French presidential elections, but polling also suggests Fillon or Juppe would wallop Le Pen in the national election.