Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday crashed out of the race to elect a Right-wing nominee for next year’s presidential election in France, after François Fillon, a Thatcherite with a Welsh wife, came a spectacular first ahead of Alain Juppé.
The race to pick a nominee for the Republicans party has sparked huge interest as the winner is likely to meet – and defeat – Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-EU, anti-immigrant Front National, in the definitive presidential run-off next May.
The ballot was open to anyone willing to pay €2 who professes agreement with the values of the centre-Right.
In a surprise outcome, Mr Fillon was on course to finish far out in front in round one.
With almost all of the 10,000 polling stations counted, Mr Fillon was on 44.2 per cent, Mr Juppé on 28.4 per cent and Mr Sarkozy well behind on 20.7 per cent.
The result was a crushing blow for the ex-French president, who had hoped to reclaim the keys to the Elysée Palace after his defeat to Socialist François Hollande in 2012.
(…) Mr Sarkozy had reached out to the far-Right electorate with a muscular stance on national identity, immigration and Islam. That tactic clearly failed. But he urged his supporters not to drop the mainstream Right for the Front National…
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