France: Fillon takes big early lead in presidential primary


PARIS (AP) — Partial results in France’s conservative presidential primary show former Prime Minister Francois Fillon strongly leading over a moderate rival who accused Fillon of pandering to anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim populism.

Based on results from about 20 percent of polling stations, organizers of the Republicans party primary said Fillon had 69.5 percent of votes and Alain Juppe had 30.5 percent after their nationwide runoff election Sunday.

Polls had suggested Fillon was the front-runner. But it is the first time the party has held a primary, and it’s too early to predict the final results.

Fillon campaigned on promises of dramatic free-market reforms, a squeeze on immigration and friendlier ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Polls suggest the winner of Sunday’s primary runoff has a high chance of winning the French presidency in the April-May election.

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