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24 Things You Should Know About The Man Who Might Be France's Next President

He races cars, has a Welsh wife, and has been dubbed "France's Thatcher". Oh, and he faces Marine Le Pen in next year's presidential election.

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1. Currently the centre-right Republicans' nominee for the French presidential election in 2017, François Fillon served as prime minister of France between 2007 and 2012, serving under president Nicolas Sarkozy.

2. If elected president, he has promised radical free market reform, cutting welfare spending, abolishing the 35-hour week, and raising the retirement age to 65.

3. A socially conservative French Catholic, Fillon was born in Le Mans, 200km southwest of Paris. He is 62 years old.

4. He was suspended from middle school for throwing a "tear gas bomb" in the middle of class.

5. One of his elementary school report cards says: "Less unruliness, more energetic work, more modesty: This combination would be better and more efficient."

6. Considered to be something of an Anglophile, he's married to Penelope Kathryn Fillon (née Clarke), who was born in Llanover, Wales.

7. His brother, Dominique Fillon, is a jazz pianist.

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8. His other brother, an ophthalmologist, is married to a younger sister of Penelope Fillon. The Queen Mother remarked upon this "charming story" when she met François Fillon on a state visit.

9. Before starting out in politics, he was interested in a career in journalism: He did two internships at Agence France-Presse, in Spain and in Belgium.

10. His career in politics started early, at the age of 27. Following a stint as parliamentary assistant to his local MP, he was elected to the national assembly in 1981.

11. In 1982 he voted against the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

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12. He voted against the single currency and the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

13. A car racing fan, he regularly takes part in the Le Mans Classic race and likes to compare himself to driver Jacky Ickx, who started last but finished first at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance racing event in 1969.

14. He is also passionate about mountaineering, and has climbed some 20 alpine mountains over 4,000 metres high.

15. He has been minister of higher education and research; minister of technology and information and of the post office; delegate minister to the post office, telecommunications, and space; minister of social affairs, labour, and solidarity; minister of national education, higher education, and research; minister of ecology, sustainable development, transportation, and housing; and, of course, prime minister.

16. He joined Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government in 2002 as the minister of social affairs. This made him the No. 3 top government official, just behind Nicolas Sarkozy.

17. While minister of education, he proposed the controversial legislation prohibiting religious signs in schools, namely headscarfs.

18. Fillon served as prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, but their relationship was strained. In August 2007, Sarkozy said he considered him a mere "collaborator." François Fillon thought about resigning several times.

19. In 2008, he almost resigned due to a case of sciatica.

20. After the failure of the right in the 2012 presidential election, Fillon ran for the leadership of the UMP party (since renamed the Republicans). He lost by just a few hundred votes following a bitter feud with Jean-François Copé.

21. François Fillon then created the parliamentary group RUMP (UMP Rally). Of course, the word rump has other connotations in English.

22. He is a great admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

23. He is also close to Vladimir Putin. Fillon is a Russophile who supports ending sanctions on Moscow over the annexation of Crimea.

24. Random weird fact: François Fillon has a tax deduction named after him, the Fillon Deduction. Yes, really.

This post was translated from French.


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Jules Darmanin est journaliste chez BuzzFeed News France et travaille depuis Paris.

Contact Jules Darmanin at jules.darmanin@buzzfeed.com.

Luke Lewis is BuzzFeed's Head of European Growth and is based in London.

Contact Luke Lewis at luke.lewis@buzzfeed.com.

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