Europe

French presidential race heats up: A look at the candidates

  • Francois Fillon puts his hand on his hear after delivering a speech following the conservative presidential primary Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 in Paris. 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. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

    Francois Fillon puts his hand on his hear after delivering a speech following the conservative presidential primary Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 in Paris. 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. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 file picture, far-right leader Marine le Pen poses as she inaugurates her campaign headquarters in Paris, France. Le Pen is convinced that her anti-immigration, anti-Islam views can lead her to the presidency in five months. France's presidential campaign is heating up, as candidates from the anti-immigrant far right to the Trotskyist far left join the race for election five months away. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 file picture, far-right leader Marine le Pen poses as she inaugurates her campaign headquarters in Paris, France. Le Pen is convinced that her anti-immigration, anti-Islam views can lead her to the presidency in five months. France's presidential campaign is heating up, as candidates from the anti-immigrant far right to the Trotskyist far left join the race for election five months away. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday Feb. 18, 2015 file photo, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, center, waves to reporters as he walks in the lobby of the Elysee Palace with French President Francois Hollande, left, and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, right, at the end of the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France. France's presidential campaign is heating up, as candidates from the anti-immigrant far right to the Trotskyist far left join the race for election five months away. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, File)

    FILE - In this Wednesday Feb. 18, 2015 file photo, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, center, waves to reporters as he walks in the lobby of the Elysee Palace with French President Francois Hollande, left, and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, right, at the end of the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France. France's presidential campaign is heating up, as candidates from the anti-immigrant far right to the Trotskyist far left join the race for election five months away. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, File)  (The Associated Press)

France's presidential campaign is heating up, as candidates from the anti-immigrant far right to the Trotskyist far left join the race for election five months away.

Now that French conservatives have chosen Francois Fillon as their nominee, here's a look at how his candidacy stacks up against leading rivals, and what's at stake for this nuclear-armed, leading world economy in the April-May election:

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FRANCOIS FILLON

The longtime No. 2 of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, this amateur racecar driver is now at the wheel of the conservative presidential campaign — representing his Republicans party and its allies from the center-right.

Fillon, 62, presents his platform as "radical:" He wants to cut taxes on business and slash public spending to boost France's stagnant economy and proposes strong measures to reduce immigration "to a minimum."

He also wants loosen the country's stringent labor rules in the hope to encourage hiring, and has a strong focus on traditional family values.

He pledged to fight energetically against the Socialist candidate and the far-right.

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MARINE LE PEN

Le Pen, 48, is the candidate of her far-right National Front party. Bolstered by Trump, the April-May election may turn to be a referendum on her ideas.

She's campaigning on an anti-immigration, anti-Islam, nationalist platform and hopes anti-establishment sentiment can propel her to the presidency.

That would have repercussions across Europe and for post-war unity. Le Pen wants to lead France out of the European Union and its visa-free zone.

Political analysts say she may reach the second round of the presidential election — meaning she has good chances to arrive in the two top candidates in the first round.

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FRANCOIS HOLLANDE

The French president — the most unpopular of France's modern history — has repeatedly said he will seek re-election only if he is able to curb the unemployment rate, which is hovering for years around 10 percent. The latest figures, showing a slight decrease in the number of jobless, might be used by Hollande, 62, as an argument to run again.

However, he would have to face other contenders in his Socialist party's primary in January. He is expected to announce his decision in coming weeks.

His main rival might be prime minister Manuel Valls, who recently said he is "ready" to lead the 2017 combat. French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said that Valls could seek the nomination only if he leaves his job.

The Socialist party is deeply divided over Hollande's policies, with a group of rebels criticizing his pro-business strategy and calling for more left-leaning policies. Among them, former ministers Arnaud Montebourg and Benoit Hamon have already announced they will run in the Socialist primary.

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EMMANUEL MACRON

A former economy minister of Francois Hollande, this outspoken and telegenic former investment banker is advocating for pro-free market and a progressive approach to social issues.

He notably encouraged startups and passed a law loosening labor rules.

The 38-year-old Emmanuel Macron started this year a political movement called "En Marche!" (In Motion) that he presents as neither right- nor left-wing — but he has never held elected office.

His views prompted harsh criticism from many members of the Socialist Party who feel that he has betrayed left-wing ideals.

Macron has decided not to take part in the Socialist primary.

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THE REST

Far-left figure Jean-Luc Melenchon, Greens nominee Yannick Jadot and other independent candidates and smaller parties' leaders are running in the election — as allowed by French law.

Anyone can run if they can collect 500 signatures from elected office holders to support the candidacy.