Francois Fillon won the French Les Republicains (The Republicans) party primaries and is now an official candidate for the 2017 presidential election, which will see him squaring off against the far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Fillon's victory came as somewhat of a surprise in the primaries of Les Republicains, which had been dominated by former president Nicolas Sarkozy and party favourite Alain Juppe. After his defeat in the first round of the vote, Sarkozy chose to back Fillon, who had won the first round with 44% of the vote and served as prime minister during his term as president between 2007 and 2012.

Fillon is a race-car enthusiast who lives in a 12th century castle in north-western France. His vision for France includes putting an end to the 35-hour work week, cutting public spending, abolishing the wealth tax, cutting 500,000 jobs from the civil service and investing €12bn euros in security, defence and justice.

Controversial on migration and Islam

Fillon's plan also focuses on measures to reform the immigration system in France, including a stronger focus on assimilation policies.

He did not hide his rejection of multiculturalism in France. During a debate on 24 November, he was asked whether France was already a multicultural country, to which Fillon replied: "No, in any case it's not the choice we made, we did not make the choice of communitarianism and multiculturalism."

His views on French history and colonialism were also criticised after he claimed in a speech in August that the French were "sharing their culture" with the people of Northern Africa, Asia and the Americas, despite the hundreds of thousands of people who died as a result of French domination.

Fillon's views on Islam are also controversial. In an essay titled "Conquering Islamic Totalitarianism" he wrote that the "bloody invasion of Islamism in our daily lives could provoke a third world war". In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, he also said: "There are no problems with religion in France. There is a problem linked to Islam."

While Fillon does not support banning religious symbols like the Muslim headscarf in public, as Sarkozy suggested he was, he did offer his support to the mayors who passed temporary burkini-bans over the summer.

Conservative on women's rights and family

Fillon's views on women's rights and abortion were also called into question during the primary debates. Facing allegations that he had refused former colleague and defeated primary contestant Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet a ministerial post in 2009 because she was pregnant, he was also accused of ambiguous stance on abortion.

After writing in his 2015 book "Faire" (the French verb meaning "to do") that abortion was a fundamental right, he told a meeting in June that he could not approve of it from a personal perspective (he identifies himself as a Catholic).

Fillon also reiterated his support from the traditional values of the family. He said in a speech before the vote: "Family is not a backward value, it is an eternal value that will always be modern". Fillon voted against the approval of same-sex marriages in 2013.

Married to a Welsh woman

Unlike Sarkozy and current president Francois Holland, whose family lives had been the matter of much media attention, Fillon has escaped such scrutiny. He has been married to Welsh woman, Penelope Clarke, since 1980. They have five children.

Fillon and Clarke reportedly met when they were both law students. They met in France while Clarke was taking a gap year and after a period of long distance relationship across the channel, Clarke eventually moved to France.

Their family ties grew even stronger when, a few years later, Clarke's sister married Fillon's younger brother.

Admirer of Margaret Thatcher

Penelope Clarke is not the only British woman who had an impact on Fillon's life. His admiration of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to the fore of the primaries debate after French left-leaning newspaper Liberation created a hybrid picture of Fillon and Thatcher on their front cover.

Fillon said he did not mind being compared to someone who "saved her country".

"When she arrived, Great Britain was doing badly. Thatcher reversed that tendency," he said during a debate on 22 November.