The French hope for a revival with Pécresse .’s pick

Facing two far-right opponents jostling for his constituency, Valérie Pécresse, the newly appointed candidate hoping to lead France’s conservative Les Républicains to next year’s presidential victory, has had to cut his job even to win just one spot in the second round of the contest- vote.

But Pécresse’s victory in a preliminary party on Saturday – confounding predictions of favorites, including former EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier – could change the course of the campaign and potentially reduce Emmanuel Macron’s chances of an easy re-election in April.

Having served as minister of higher education and budgeting under Nicolas Sarkozy, and since 2015 head of the Île-de-France region that includes Paris, Pécresse has enjoyed years of government experience. Analysts say her policies – tough on law and order as well as strong on fiscal discipline – could clash with some of the more moderate conservative voters who already flocked to Macron’s central, reformist platform in 2017.

Her nomination, after a five-way race including several strong candidates, have also moved in some direction to reinvigorate the LR as a political force. The movement – with its roots in the traditional right-wing in France as embodied by former presidents Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac – exploded at the last election when an embezzlement scandal derailed his campaign. François Fillon. Since then, it has been plagued by internal rifts as supporters drift towards the far right.

Politics professor Vincent Martigny said: “The long process of selecting Pécresse shows that a party that has experienced three crises – ideological, financial and leadership – can organize itself by finding a candidate. “very legitimate” member. at the University of Nice.

LR has never chosen a female candidate before, and could benefit from the more modern image provided by Pécresse’s choice, Martigny added.

However, the gap that Pécresse must close to catch up with other presidential candidates, even if she is able to keep her party disagreements private, remains large.

A sudden increase in opinion polls about Eric Zemmour, an anti-immigration polemicist who has sparked comparisons with Donald Trump, has proven his main frustration so far, capable of ripping plotted the long-anticipated scenario of a rematch between Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement party, and Macron.

Both Zemmour and Le Pen have a good chance of qualifying for the second round vote against Macron, recent polls have shown, while Pécresse has so far been limp with support around 11% in the polls. vote in the first round, less than half of Macron’s forecast score.

One of Pécresse’s main lines of attack will be to contrast her clearly right-wing views with Macron’s “neither nor left” centralism. Pécresse has described Macron as a “chameleon”. Before cheering supporters on Saturday, she labeled him a “zigzag” president who blew the wind.

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

Pécresse is considered a moderate within the LR movement and is notable for placing climate change and the environment at the heart of his campaign. However, with Le Pen and Zemmour pushing the nation’s political agenda to the right, which she did when decrying “uncontrolled migration” is something she will address with regulations. tougher regulations on asylum seekers and immigration quotas.

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

Pécresse is also a fiscal conservative, pledging to rein in public spending and cut 200,000 administrative jobs. She has stepped up attacks on Macron for “burning cash”, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when – like other wealthy economies – France has raised billions of euros to help businesses. struggling businesses and employees, as well as health services.

“That will resonate with right-wing voters, who even if they think Macron has done a great job in the economy, they will have the classic reflex of thinking ‘this is going to happen,'” said Bruno. end up with a higher tax one day’ ‘. 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 introduced reforms, including labor market liberalization, from the very beginning, but he has also been affected by the protests. major government resistance, partly due to the high cost of living.

In his own political movement, Pécresse’s main challenge will be dealing with far-rights whose immigration, law and order policies closely resemble Zemmour and Le Pen. She defeated the most right-wing of the LR candidates in the preliminary round, Éric Ciotti, but he came out on top in the first round and still won 39% of the votes in the final. Ciotti has said that he will vote for Zemmour in the event of an election between Zemmour and Macron.

Zemmour and Le Pen both rushed in. Zemmour urged LR members upset by Pécresse’s win to take part in his first major election rally in the suburbs of Paris on Sunday.

“I share the disappointment of Éric and his followers,” Zemmour wrote in an open letter. “We are very close and we have a lot in common!” Le Pen made a similar appeal, condemning Pécresse as a “macrostatist”.

In a gesture towards Ciotti – who said he would support the new LR party candidate but immediately warned her that the presidency “will be won on the right” – Pécresse said she would began his presidential campaign in the southern village of Saint-Martin-Vésubie, where he was an elected official.

She also took a stand against the murky decadence of Le Pen and Zemmour, dismissing them in her acceptance speech on Saturday as divisive “fearers” and claiming : “The Republic Is Back.”

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