“France wants the truth and France wants action,” he told cheering supporters following Juppé’s concession speech, promising to “reach out to all those who want to serve the country.”
“The left means failure, the far-right means bankruptcy,” he declared, saying he would be the candidate of “all those who in their hearts are proud to be French”.
Parliamentarian Serge Grouard, who is a member of Fillon’s campaign team, said this was only the first step. “We must keep working. The next step is the presidential election. We want to make sure he (Fillon) is the next president of France,” he said.
The 62-year-old former Prime Minister is expected to face a strong challenge from far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the May 2017 presidential election.
A survey conducted by a French poll agency after Fillon's win suggested that the Les Republicain leader would beat Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election by a wide margin (67 per cent against 33 per cent).
But next year’s presidential race is seen as highly unpredictable because of the uncertainty about the impact of independents and the Socialist party candidate.
President François Hollande is yet to announce whether he will be running for a second term or not. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has not ruled himself out of contesting in the left-wing primary set for January, telling the weekly Journal du Dimanche that he wanted to dispel the idea “that the left has no chance” of retaining power.
Former economy minister Emmanuel Macron is also set to stand for the presidency as a centrist independent candidate.