Sun. May 29th, 2022

Faced with two far-right rivals eating into her constituents, Valérie Pécresse, the newly appointed candidate hoping to lead France’s conservative Les Républicains to a presidential victory next year, has cut her job to even secure a place in the second round. scrap tuning.

But Pécresse’s triumph in a party-primary Saturday – confusing predictions about the favorites, which included the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator Michel barnier – could change the course of the campaign and possibly hamper Emmanuel Macron’s chances of an easy re-election in April.

A former Minister of Higher Education and Budget under Nicolas Sarkozy, and since 2015 head of the Île-de-France region which includes Paris, Pécresse has years of government experience. Analysts say her policies – strict on law and order and strong on fiscal discipline – could strike a chord with some of the more moderate conservative voters who flocked to Macron’s centrist, reform platform in 2017.

Her nomination, following a five-way race which included some heavyweights, also went a long way toward rehabilitating the LR as a political force. The movement – which is descended from the traditional right in France, embodied by former presidents Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac – exploded in the last election when an eclipse scandal derailed François Fillon’s campaign. It has since been plagued by internal rifts as supporters have drifted away to the far right.

The lengthy process of electing Pécresse has shown that a party that has had a triple crisis – ideologically, financially and over leadership – can organize itself by finding a “very legitimate” candidate supported by the losers in the primary be, said Vincent Martigny, political professor. at the University of Nice.

The LR has never before selected a female candidate, and could benefit from the more modern image provided by the choice of Pécresse, Martigny added.

However, the gap that Pécresse has to close to catch up with other presidential candidates, even if she can keep a lid on party discord, is still huge.

The sudden rise in opinion polls of Eric Zemmour, an anti-immigration polemicist who has drawn comparisons with Donald Trump, has so far shown the greatest dismay, possible tear the long-predicted scenario of a rematch between Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National Party, and Macron.

Both Zemmour and Le Pen have a chance to qualify for the second round against Macron, recent polls show, while Pécresse has so far lagged behind with support of about 11 percent in the first round vote, less than half of Macron’s predictions score.

One of Pécresse’s main lines of attack will be to contrast her clear right – wing views with Macron’s “neither right nor left” centristism. Pécresse described Macron as “chameleons”. Before her supporters cheered on Saturday, she described him as a “zigzag” president blowing along with the wind.

“I will not compromise with the truth or avoid difficult questions. “I will not necessarily tell the French what they want to hear,” Pécresse said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.

Pécresse is seen as a moderate within the LR movement and is striking because she places climate change and the environment at the heart of her campaign. Yet, with Le Pen and Zemmour sharply shifting the country’s political agenda to the right, she has decided to condemn “uncontrolled migration” as something she would tackle with stricter rules for asylum seekers and immigration quotas.

Supporters of French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour waving French national flags and posters during a campaign rally in Villepinte, near Paris
Supporters of French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour waving French national flags and posters during a rally in Villepinte, near Paris © Julien de Rosa / AFP / Getty

Pécresse is also a fiscal conservative, promising to curb public spending and cut 200,000 administrative posts. She intensified the attacks on Macron because he was “burning cash”, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when France – like other rich economies – bumped billions of euros to help struggling businesses and employees and the health service.

“It will resonate with right-wing voters, who even if they think Macron has done a good job on the economy, will have a classic reflex that is to think ‘it’s all going to end up with higher taxes one day,'” Bruno said. said. Cautrès, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris, added that Pécresse’s nomination was “not very good news” for Macron.

Macron came to power on a pro-business agenda and launched reforms, including a liberalization of the labor market, early in his mandate, but he was also hit by major anti-government protests, in part over high cost of living.

In her own political movement, Pécresse’s biggest challenge will be to deal with the right wing, whose policies on immigration and law and order are close to those of Zemmour and Le Pen. She defeated the most right-wing of the LR contenders in the primary, Éric Ciotti, but he came out on top in the first round and still won 39 percent of the vote in the final. Ciotti said he would vote for Zemmour in the event of an election match between Zemmour and Macron.

Zemmour and Le Pen have both already struck. Zemmour appealed to LR members upset over Pécresse’s victory to join his first major election rally on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday.

“I share the disappointment of Éric and his followers,” Zemmour wrote in an open letter. “We are so close to each other and we have so much in common!” Le Pen made a similar appeal, condemning Pécresse as a “Macronis.”

In a gesture to Ciotti – who said he would support the new LR candidate but immediately warned her that the presidency “would be won on the right” – Pécresse said she would run her presidential campaign in the southern town of Saint- Martin-Vésubie kicks off, where he is an elected official.

At the same time, she took a stand against the gloomy declination of Le Pen and Zemmour and dismissed them in her acceptance speech on Saturday as divisive “traders of fear”, declaring: “Republican law is back.”

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