France’s conservative party on Saturday chose Valérie Pécresse, the moderate head of the Paris region, to challenge President Emmanuel Macron next year, an election that is likely to have a major influence on the shape of the campaign.
The members of Les Républicans (LR) in the second round of the primaries chose Pécresse, who will be their first female presidential candidate and presents himself as a voice of moderation, over the uncompromising Éric Ciotti, announced party leader Christian Jacob.
Both had reached the second round after the first round of voting earlier this week changed expectations.
The favorites, former Minister Xavier Bertrand and former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, were eliminated and backed Pécresse.
“The party of General (Charles) de Gaulle (post-war French leader) … our political family will have a candidate in the presidential elections. I am thinking of all the women of France today. I will give everything for triumph,” she said later the result was announced.
Pécresse won nearly 61 percent of the vote among party members, while Ciotti won just over 39 percent, Jacob said. Ciotti accepted defeat and immediately promised to support Pécresse.
The result is being watched closely by the Elysee.
While all opinion polls have shown that the centrist Macron is more likely to win the election, the emergence of a strong candidate on the traditional right who gains momentum during the campaign would be an important factor. The incumbent has yet to declare a new offer, but Macron is expected to seek re-election.
So far, the campaign has been carried out from the right, and the Macron government has gone to the right in recent months with tough rhetoric on immigration and the preservation of France’s secular system.
Though more moderate than Ciotti, Pécresse and his rivals over the LR fine veered further to the right on immigration and law and order issues.
He campaigned on promises to cut the number of residence permits for non-EU immigrants by half, toughen court sentences in tough neighborhoods where police are under pressure, and ban women who accompany their children on school trips. wear a muslim headscarf.
‘The right is back’
Les Républicans failed to reach the second round in 2017, after its candidate, François Fillon, was killed by a corruption scandal.
But the party, out of power since 2012, attaches great importance to its status as heir to the presidencies of Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, as well as Charles de Gaulle.
“The Republican right is back. It will fight with relentless will. France cannot wait any longer,” Pécresse said, vowing to make France “respected in the world.”
Historic vote of the French right. Republicans have chosen a presidential candidate for the first time: Valérie Pécresse. He beat Ciotti by a convincing 61%. Former Minister of Economy, traditional conservative and enarque, will be a complicated challenger for Macron pic.twitter.com/FuRetNrLTW
– Sophie Pedder (@PedderSophie) December 4, 2021
Setting the tone for his campaign, he added: “I understand the anger of a people who feel powerless in the face of violence, Islamist separatism and uncontrolled immigration.”
“I will not have a wavering hand against the enemies of the Republic,” he added.
Ciotti has long advocated for radical “disruptions” in policies to protect a France that he considered at risk of losing its identity from immigration and economic decline, promising a “French Guantanamo” to stop suspected terrorists.
His rhetoric sometimes echoed that of far-right expert Éric Zemmour, who declared his candidacy this week. Ciotti said he would vote for Zemmour in a runoff against Macron.
The announcement of the Les Républicans candidate means that the main outlines for the April 2022 elections are largely set.
Analysts believe Macron can wait several more weeks to declare his intention to seek re-election before showing his hand to appear above the fray of day-to-day politics.
Her main rival in the 2017 elections, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, is back on her feet, while Zemmour’s candidacy is a wild card that could still make a big impact or simply disappear.
The left remains mired in disunity and communication problems, and the campaigns of the socialist candidate, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the Green candidate, Yannick Jadot, failed to make an impact. Both are at risk of being overtaken by far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)