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France

Juppé calls out Fillon’s 'brutal' downsizing proposal in final primary debate

media François Fillon (L) with rival opponent Alain Juppé in France's final rightwing primary debate on Thursday 24 November. Reuters/Eric Feferberg

Alain Juppé and François Fillon faced off in France’s final right-wing primary debate on Thursday night. Voters decide on Sunday 27 November which candidate will be on the presidential ticket next May.

In their final televised meeting, Alain Juppé criticized François Fillon’s proposal to slash 500,000 public sector jobs over five years. Juppé, the 71-year-old centrist mayor of Bordeaux, said that cutting such a high number of civil servant jobs “would not be possible”.

Fillon, former prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, has made government downsizing a central aspect of his presidential campaign. While Juppé has also called for similar measures, he has called to reduce the number of government posts by 250,000, half the number proposed by his rival.

“It is true that my project is more radical and perhaps more difficult,” said Fillon, whose push for smaller government has led some French media outlets and analysts to compare him to Margaret Thatcher, the late British prime minister.

Fillon attacked his rival for “not really wanting to change things.”

“He wants to improve certain things, but I’m sure it won’t be enough.”

Juppé responded by saying he favoured “deep and credible” public sector reforms without “the brutality” of Fillon’s proposals.

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