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French conservatives hold first-time presidential primary

November 20, 2016 - FRANCE

The centre-right Republican Party holds voting on Nov 20 and Nov 27 for its presidential candidate in the 2017 election - a first primary election for the country's conservatives. Former prime minister Alain Juppé is outpolling party leader Nicolas Sarkozy, whose legal problems might keep him out of the race. Another major terror attack in France ahead of the primary would change the dynamics, potentially propelling a hardliner ahead of centrist Juppé.

The voting is open to anyone who identifies as centrist or centre-right -- an estimated 4.5 million people. The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) changed its name to The Republicans in May 2015, part of an effort by Sarkozy to rebrand the party ahead of the 2017 vote.

Now mayor of Bordeaux and once reviled for an array of unpopular reforms, the 70-year-old Juppé has shot ahead of Sarkozy and other rivals in most polls. Sarkozy, meanwhile, faces judicial investigations into alleged influence-peddling and illegal fund-raising during his 2007- 2012 presidency. He denies the allegations.

Former family affairs minister Nadine Morano, once a fervent Sarkozy supporter, is now a possible threat to his chances because of her outspoken hard-right comments about race. The Independent quotes her as saying on television that France is a "Judaeo-Christian country of the white race." The British newspaper remarked that her statement embarrassed Sarkozy, who has been courting hard-right voters by making appeals to national identity without using such explicitly racial language.

Other prominent rivals include former agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire, former prime minister François Fillon, and former secretary of state Frédéric Lefebvre. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former French environment minister, is also expected to enter the lists.

Big fight for the French Right (Politico 11 Jan 2016)

France's UMP party changes name to The Republicans, boosting Sarkozy (Reuters 29 May 2016)

Sarkozy denies French expats electronic vote in conservative primary (AFP/France24 6 May 2016)

VOTEZ LES 20 & 27 NOVEMBRE à la primaire de la droite et du centre

Date written/update: 2016-10-22