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Fillon declares victory in French primary

AAP logoAAP 27/11/2016

Francois Fillon has declared victory in the conservative presidential primary over his more moderate rival Alain Juppe.

Juppe conceded defeat in the country's first-ever conservative presidential primary and congratulated Fillon for a "wide victory.

Juppe, a former prime minister who had long been considered the favourite for the primary, made the concession announcement after results from Sunday's runoff election showed him garnering 32 per cent of the vote to Fillon's 68 per cent.

Juppe says he will support Fillon in the national election in April and May.

"I finish this campaign as I began it, as a free man who did not compromise what he is or what he thinks," he said in Paris on Sunday night.

Juppe is calling for unity and calm after an unusually harsh campaign in which he accused Fillon of pandering to the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right.

Fillon enjoyed a surprise surge in popularity in recent weeks over the longtime favourite, also a former prime minister.

Fillon campaigned on promises of drastic free-market reforms, a hard line on immigration and Islam, support for traditional family values and friendlier ties with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

In a victory speech following the primary's runoff election on Sunday, Fillon called for unity to defeat the far right and the discredited left.

Polls suggest the 62-year-old Fillon would have a high chance of winning the French presidency in the April-May election, and that his toughest challenge may come from far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

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