Valérie Pécresse, the head of the Ile-de-France region around Paris, has been chosen as the candidate of the conservative Les Républicains party in next year’s French presidential election.
Pécresse – who will try to win back support that turned to Emmanuel Macron in the last election while seeing off challengers from the far right – will become the country’s first female president if she wins on April.
“For the first time in history, the party of General de Gaulle, of Georges Pompidou, of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy will have a female candidate for president,” Pécresse told supporters.
LR party members chose Pécresse in a final round of primaries over the weekend after she won pledges of support from other losing candidates and saw off Eric Ciotti, a member of Congress from the domain male and the most right-wing of the LR party candidates. She beat Ciotti with 61% of the vote, down to 39.
Two of the early favorites in the LR race, former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Xavier Bertrand, a regional leader from Hauts-de-France in the north, were eliminated early. , rocking analyst predictions ahead of the spring election. .
Pécresse’s nomination signals the serious start of the campaign season in France.
All the main candidates except Macron have claimed themselves, including Marine Le Pen of the far-right Rassemblement National; Eric Zemmour, an independent anti-immigration polemicist whose sudden rise to prominence has been likened to Donald Trump; and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is leading in opinion polls as the candidate for the Socialist Party.
Macron is expected to officially announce his re-election campaign in early 2022.
A former education and budgetary minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, Pécresse, 54, is considered a moderate in the LR. She has presented herself as an environmentalist, as well as a fiscal conservative, and promotes a strong law and order agenda.
Her program includes cutting administrative jobs in France – although she says she wants to pour more money into the justice system – and increasing wages for lower-income workers by how to reduce their social security payments.
On immigration, which brings together far-right candidates and is one of the main battlegrounds of the campaign, Pécresse said she would introduce quotas and strengthen the asylum system.
Ciotti’s surprisingly strong performance in the primary – he took the lead after the first round – underscored the danger to Pécresse and LR that the support of conservative republicans would fade for Zemmour and the His radical defense of France as a Judeo-Christian culture is said to have come under attack from the mass immigration of Muslims.
Pécresse gave a nod to the increasingly powerful far-right in her party, condemning violent crimes, “the rise of Islamic separatism” and “uncontrolled immigration”.
“Together, we will restore French pride and protect French people,” she said.
But while Ciotti on Saturday repeated his call for the party to fight for “identity, power and freedom,” Pécresse espoused only the last two and explicitly replaced “identity” with “dignity” price”.
In her speech, in which she tagged Macron as a “zigzag” president who switches between right and left, Pécresse said she would take aim at the bureaucracy and public debt that was weighing heavily on France. in her view, and advocated “a less naive Europe.”
Macron, who sought to shed traditional political tags when he came to power in 2017 and swayed voters from different camps on a more centrist “non-leftist” platform, however encroached pitch to the conservative field.
His push for reforms, including an overhaul of labor rules, has earned him the support of many business leaders, and he profited in 2017 from the fall. fallen from the grace of François Fillon, the LR candidate once considered a presidential candidate, who was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal during the campaign.
Pécresse will seek to reinstate some of those voters. Polls taken before the results of the LR race put her in about 11% in the first round, half as much as Macron in first place and behind Le Pen and Zemmour. If she fails to improve that score in the first vote in April, she will not qualify for the second round of the presidential election.
Pécresse sought to distance himself from the divisive and discriminatory views of extreme candidates like Zemmour. “Contrary to the extreme views, we will rip the page of the Macron era without ripping the history of France,” Pécresse said after winning the nomination.