For months, the same discourse was heard over and over again: the French republican primary election was supposed to be a long awaited match between Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy, a scenario written in advance for which both candidates had been sharpening their arguments. Each represented one of the main streams of the Republican Party: the moderate conservatism embodied by Alain Juppe would face the populistic liberalism of Sarkozy.
Yet the conservative party militants and sympathizers did not follow expectations and France woke up on Monday with a surprising outcome. Francois Fillon, the stern Prime Minister who served under Nicolas Sarkozy during his entire presidency crushed the competition and pushed his former boss into political retirement. Sarkozy, who had already staged a definitive departure from political life after his defeat against Hollande in 2012, is unlikely to survive the colossal blow handed by his very own party. With just a little above 20 percent of the votes by his name, the message for Sarkozy was clear: the French population prefers an uncharismatic rigorous man in the shadows over a former president obsessed by cameras and populistic promises.
Popular success of the primary election
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech after being defeated on the first round of the French right wing party 'Les Republicains' primaries in Paris, France, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. Former French prime minister Francois Fillon had the largest share of votes in early returns Sunday from the first round of the conservative primary for next year's presidential election. (Ian Langsdon/Pool Photo via AP)