To everyone’s surprise, the former French Prime Minister beat all his rivals at the primary for the Centre-Right, including Nicolas Sarkozy, who only reached third place. Indeed, with a majority of 69.5 per cent — against 30.5 per cent for Alain Juppé — François Fillon won the second round and is now in the race to become the future president of France.

 

So, who is he?

Born in 1954 from the union of a notary and a historian, he was raised with Catholic values and went to a Jesuit school. He began his career in politics at the age of 22 as the parliamentary assistant of Joël Le Theule, the deputy of the region of Sarthe at that time. Until the ’90s — he received the post of Minister of Higher Education and Research in 1993 — he performed different positions in local politics. In 2007, he became Prime Minister under Sarkozy’s government. Concerning his private life, François Fillon is married to a Welsh lady and is father to five children. He is also the owner of a twelfth-century castle.

France under Fillon

According to experts, his victory is related to many factors: his positive attitude worthy of a president during the debates and all throughout his campaign, his experience of the political arena and his clean judicial record. Nonetheless, the main reason for his victory is undoubtedly his political agenda which aims to drastically change the country. It enticed both the Right and the Extreme-Right electorate to the chagrin of the Front National.

Moreover, many rumours claim that Fillon is the ‘clone’ of Margaret Thatcher, the famous Prime Minister who led the British Government between 1979 and 1990. It is true that on the economic level there are many similarities between Fillon’s policy and Thatcher’s — by the way, he considers her as his ‘role model’During a recent speech, Fillon suggested reshaping the working system and passing new measures. These included cutting aspects of the labour law — in order to increase the working time from 35 hours to 39 hours per week — easing the breach of permanent contracts, and also decreasing unemployment benefits. During his term, he also wants to reduce the role of the state. For this purpose, the deputy of Paris plans to cut 500,000 officials’ jobs. In regards to taxes, Fillon wants to decrease them for households and businesses. To fill the shortfall, he plans to increase VAT. These suggestions may remind one of the rigorous measures implemented by the Iron Lady in the ’80s. At least, that is why many opponents of Fillon have put unemployment an poverty as the expected consequences of his program.

However, drawing parallels between Fillon’s and Thatcher’s social programs is not that straightforward. Both are conservatives, but while Thatcher supported progressive measures — such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality — Fillon wants to take a step back. For instance, he would like to rewrite the law passed in 2013 which introduced same-sex marriage and adoption. This isn’t surprising though, he supported the Manif’ pour Tous in 2013 — a demonstration against this very law. Also, criticism has been made about his equivocal speech concerning abortion. And so, whether Fillon is mirroring Thathcher’s footsteps or following his own vision, will be something that remains to be seen.

By Rosalie Marc

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