PARIS Dec 13 Francois Fillon, the conservative
candidate currently seen as most likely to win next year's
French Presidential election, said in a newspaper column on
Tuesday that he had no plans to privatise parts of the French
His column, published in Le Figaro newspaper, comes after
French Socialist would-be presidential candidate Manuel Valls
criticised Fillon's plans to slash the public payroll and health
spending, saying they threatened the foundations of a welfare
state dear to voters.
"Instead of looking at the facts, my detractors suspect me
of wanting to 'privatise' health insurance and cut down on
spending there. This is quite clearly not true," Fillon wrote in
At issue are a few lines in Fillon's election programme that
drew little attention until he became the candidate for Les
Republicains at the end of November.
In the manifesto, the former prime minister says that the
public healthcare system has scarcely changed since it took
shape in 1945, and cannot continue to operate under debts of 110
billion euros ($117 billion).
Recent opinion polls have put Fillon as most likely to beat
the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in next year's
elections, which will be held in April and May.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Mathieu Rosemain)