France’s leading presidential candidate starkly contrasts with the political leadership of most European Union (EU) member nations.
Francois Fillon won the center-right party primary Sunday, indicating the party’s embrace of a harder line on immigration and improving relations with Russia. Fillon also pledged to impose “strict administrative control” over Islam, in response to terror attacks plaguing France since 2015.
While Fillon favors France remaining in the EU, his other policy positions significantly differ with the policies and positions of other EU nations. Fillon’s proposal on countering Islamic extremism in France revolves around a partnership with Russia. He has likened radical Islam to “totalitarianism like the Nazis” stressing that Christians in France “don’t denounce the values of the Republic.”
The EU extended sanctions against Russia in September over Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. The sanctions are set to expire in January, and will continue to be an ongoing foreign policy debate within the European bloc. Fillon is also likely to oppose any EU initiative to resettle refugees, championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Recent polling shows Fillon is the favored candidate, with current French President Francois Hollande at an approval rating of nearly 4 percent. A recent Harris interactive poll also found that Fillon would likely beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the April 2017 election. Hollande has yet to indicate whether he will stand for another term, but his party is deeply damaged after his nearly five years in power marked by pervasive economic stagnation.
Hollande’s approval rating is particularly stunning given his historical popularity in France. He held a 63 percent approval rating in 2012, and stayed above 40 percent, even during the events surrounding al-Qaida’s attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the November, 2015, Islamic State attack in Paris. His current approval rating is the lowest recorded in the three decades.
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