Is Fillon the “French Thatcher,” Or France’s Kasich Battling the “Le Pen Trumpette?”

In the late 1970s, conservatives agreed that all but one of the major Western democracies had a right-of-center leader: the U.S. had Reagan, the U.K. Thatcher, and West Germany (before it was unified with the East) Franz-Josef Strauss of Bavaria, who lost a bid to be chancellor in 1979. France was the exception. Nearly four decades later, it appears to finally have such a leader in Francois Fillon.

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By John Gizzi l December 4, 2016

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In France, once the results of the Republicans’ (center-right party) presidential run-off were finalized a week ago Sunday, the speculation over their newly-minted nominee in the May 2017 election began all over again.

Is former Prime Minister Francis Fillon really “to the right of Margaret Thatcher,” as his centrist nomination opponent Alain Juppe charged?

Or, is he the French Republicans’ version of Ohio Governor John Kasich—the last perceived hope of many Republicans to stop Donald Trump from their presidential nomination in 2016 —whose mission is to deny nationalist-populist hopeful Marine Le Pen the Champs Elysse (presidential palace) in 2017?

In his dramatic come-from-behind campaign that eliminated former President Nicolas Sarkozy in the initial primary and then demolished former Prime Minister (and Foreign Minister) Juppe in the run-off with 69 per cent, Fillon certainly sounded like the late British prime minister Thatcher.

Along with embracing the provocative cause of ending France’s 35-hour work week, Fillon campaigned hard on a platform to cut 500,000 civil service jobs and slash benefits to cut public debt. In a nation in which taxes have historically not been a major issue, Fillon wants to cut the corporate tax by 40 billion Euros.

As controversial as these views might be, Fillon, 62, is seen as the last “roadblock” to Le Pen, who wants to deport all illegal immigrants and take France out of the European Union (“Frexit”) in the same way as “Brexit” took Britain out. (For his part, Fillon backs the EU and wants to hold a national referendum on whether to raise or lower the level of immigrants admitted to France).

A Harris Interactive Poll showed that in the “free-for-all” initial race for president next May, Fillon edges Le Pen by 26 to 24 percent, with former Economics Minister Emmanuel Macron (an independent candidate) at 14 percent, and Socialist President Francois Hollande at 9 percent.

In the resulting runoff, Harris shows Fillon demolishing Le Pen by a margin of 67 to 33 percent.

Hollande’s dismal showing in most polls has fueled speculation France’s second Socialist President since the 5thRepublic was born in 1958 might announce his retirement in December. But the candidate most frequently mentioned as his heir to the Socialist mantle, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, also draws 9 percent in a crowded field.

In the late 1970s, conservatives agreed that all but one of the major Western democracies had a right-of-center leader: the U.S. had Reagan, the U.K. Thatcher, and West Germany (before it was unified with the East) Franz-Josef Strauss of Bavaria, who lost a bid to be chancellor in 1979. France was the exception. Nearly four decades later, it appears to finally have such a leader in Francois Fillon.


John Gizzi is the White House correspondent and chief political columnist for Newsmax. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.