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September 22, 2017

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France's Fillon wins primary,

PARIS--Francois Fillon won France's first-ever conservative presidential primary Sunday after promising drastic free-market reforms and a crackdown on immigration and Islamic extremism, beating a more moderate rival who had warned of encroaching populism.

"President! President!" chanted the former prime minister's supporters as he declared victory over Alain Juppe in a nationwide runoff election.

Polls suggest the sober, authoritative Fillon, 62, would have a strong chance of winning the French presidency in the April-May election, amid widespread frustration with France's current Socialist leadership.

Fillon, who was prime minister from 2007-2012 under ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, enjoyed a surprise surge in popularity in recent weeks. A rise in nationalist sentiment across Europe may have favored his strict conservative positions over Juppe's more centrist stance.

France needs "a complete change of software," Fillon said, promising in his victory speech to defend "French values."

Among his promises: slash public spending, cap immigration, support traditional family values and reach out to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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