Conservative reformist Francois Fillon has clinched the Republican party's nomination for France's presidential elections next year, with a resounding victory over his rival centre-right candidate Alain Juppe.
The 62 -year-old former prime minister who wants to shrink the French government, raise the retirement age, cut back social security and scrap the 35-hour work week is now the favourite to be France's next leader.
A flash opinion poll right after his victory said Fillon would easily beat Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of the National Front party, in a two-round election in April and May.
In a victory speech, he said he had "torn up all the pre-written scripts" as he sped past his rivals in the last weeks of the campaign.
"I must now convince the whole country, our project is the only one that can lift us up, for jobs, growth and to fight those fanatics that declared war on us," a visibly moved Fillon said at his campaign headquarters.
"I will take up an unusual challenge for France: tell the truth and completely change its software," he said.
With votes from nearly all of the 10,229 polling stations counted, Fillon had won 66.5 percent of the votes in the primaries, organised by the centre-right Les Republicains party.
Next year's elections in the Euro zone's second-largest economy are shaping up to be another test of the strength of anti-establishment parties in Western countries, with French voters angry about stubbornly high unemployment and fearful after a wave of terror attacks.
The devout Catholic has taken a hard line on immigration in France, telling newcomers last week that "when you enter someone else's house you do not take over."
Up until a couple of weeks ago Alain Juppe was expected to be the centre-right candidate, a more moderate proposition, who had been a favourite in polls for months.
But in the following days Fillon managed to win the support of voters by his performance in televised debates.
Opinion polls had mostly showed him in third position.
Fillon appeared well ahead in the first round of primaries held on November 20 with 44.1 percent of the votes. Juppe secured 28.6 percent, while former President Nicolas Sarkozy stood third with 20.6 percent votes and was eliminated from the race.