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French Thatcherite Upends 2017 Race Pledging to Shrink the State

• bloomberg.com by Helene Fouquet

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, the new front-runner in France's 2017 presidential election, is offering voters an economic-policy revolution inspired by Margaret Thatcher.

Fillon, 62, vaulted from third position in most polls to win the first round of the Republican primary by 15 percentage points from the veteran Alain Juppe on Sunday with the most free-market platform among the seven candidates. They'll face each other again in next Sunday's runoff and the winner will be favorite to become president in May 2017.

Lifelong politician Fillon is pledging to lengthen the work week to 39 hours from 35, to increase the retirement age to 65 and add immigration quotas. He's vowed to eliminate half a million public-sector jobs and cut spending by 100 billion euros ($106 billion) over his five years in office. And he proposes a 40 billion-euro tax-cut for companies and a constitutional ban on planned budget deficits.

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