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French conservative contender Fillon ahead in final debate before primary

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-25 14:31
French conservative contender Fillon ahead in final debate before primary

French politician Francois Fillon speaks as he attends the third prime-time televised debate as he campaigns in the second round for the French center-right presidential primary election in Paris, France, November 24, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, favorite candidate of the center-right party for 2017 presidential race, has dominated the face-off with his challenger Alain Juppe, an Elabe survey released late Thursday showed.

According to the poll, 57 percent of 908 respondents said Fillon was the most convincing, and 71 percent of conservative and center-right voters considered him the winner against Juppe.

In a televised debate on Thursday, the two candidates showed great similarities in their economic proposals, which include raising retirement age and reducing public expenditure by cutting public service jobs.

However, Juppe, who was forced to overturn sliding popularity after first round defeat, tried to differ by attacking Fillon's plan to slash 500,000 posts in public services, which he said was unrealistic. He wants to reduce 250,000 posts by modernizing public services.

"Reform should not be a punishment but bring hope," Juppe said.

Defending his "more radical project," the winner of Sunday's conservative primaries' Fillon, retorted "I do not accept saying it's impossible."

"Alain Juppe does not really want to change things. He's staying within the system, he just wants to improve it," he added.

On social issues and foreign policy, the two contenders quarrelled over multi-culturalism and whether France should cooperate with Russia to win the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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