The French Republican Right Seeks a Candidate

  • Five uncharismatic leaders face off in a primary to lead the Republicans in the spring

To exist in the middle of the pincer between Emmanuel Macron and the ultra-rightists Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour. It is the challenge of The Republicans (LR, partners of the PP in France) in the pre-campaign of the French presidential elections of 2022. This formation heir to the Gaullist right – although little remains of the legacy of General De Gaulle – will elect its presidential candidate between this Wednesday and Saturday. Their 150,000 militants have the last word in these closed primaries. They compete in them five candidates without dazzling charisma and with a similar ideological profile. a heavy hand on security and immigration has marked the debates. The shadow of Zemmour has been present in the internal campaign of this party, whose militancy stands out for combing gray hair and its very conservative postulates. The xenophobic polemicist, who aspires to unify in the same bloc the voters of the Republican right with those of the extreme right, made his candidacy official on Tuesday. This is how he intends to short-circuit the selection process of LR at the media level.

An uncertain primaries

“He is a man of provocation who proposes beautiful words and phrases & rdquor ;, but does not provide solutions, said the president of the Paris region, Valérie Pécresse, on Tuesday night in the debate on the public channel France 2. In the last television showdown between the five LR hopefuls, all of them they marked distances with the polemicist. The president of the Hauts-de-France (north) region, Xavier Bertrand, —the best positioned among them in the polls— criticized that “Has no political stature & rdquor; to become the head of state. “The images of Éric Zemmour from last week speak for themselves, & rdquor ;, said Michel Barnier, a former European Brexit negotiator, referring to the comb the essayist-candidate made to a passerby in Marseille. None of the five LR candidates generates unanimity among the supporters. The low profile of most of them reflects the national decline of this historical political family, which preserves a large local and regional implantation. Both Bertrand, Pécresse and Barnier count as chances to win. Even a surprise is not ruled out with the appointment of deputy Éric Ciotti, the most xenophobic of them all. In France, the primaries have a reputation of being a Russian roulette, since the militants do not always choose the best candidate, but the one most similar to them, ergo, the most radical.

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Military operations in the suburb

This internal campaign became an auction to see who proposes the toughest measures against crime and the arrival of migrants. “Must change the constitution and ask the French for their opinion by referendum on the mandatory minimum penalties for repeat offenders and those who physically attack a police officer, firefighter or mayor & rdquor; France 2 Bertrand, who intends to lower the criminal age of majority to 15 years. “I want to carry out lightning operations, even with the army involvement& rdquor ;, in those popular neighborhoods “that were outside the law · & rdquor ;, defended Pécresse. In another debate he had already vindicated “the link between immigration, Islamism, terrorism and insecurity.” Far from his reputation as a Brussels technocrat with a moderate temper, Barnier has also contributed to this right-wing spiral. He proposes to reform the Magna Carta to impose the primacy of French over European law and thus drastically reduce immigration. However, the most controversial proposals were those of Ciotti. This historic MP from the Nice region defends the construction of a “French Guantanamo & rdquor;, where he would lock up the most dangerous jihadists. He also wants to ban the Islamic headscarf in public buildings, including hospitals. “LR leaders they are afraid that their constituents will choose Zemmour& rdquor ;, explains to El Periódico Emilien Houard-Vial, an expert on the Republican right. “I would not be surprised if those voters who agree with these ideas end up betting on those candidates who defend them in a more radical way & rdquor ;, warns this professor in Sciences Po Paris. “But for the right wing to maintain a harsh discourse on security and immigration matters is common, & rdquor ;, qualifies the political scientist Jean Petaux. This analyst believes that “the credibility of the final LR candidate may influence the regression & rdquor; in the polls experienced in recent weeks by the debater. And its ability to play a relevant role in the race to the Elysee will depend on it, where the right wing has not returned after the defeat of Nicolas sarkozy in 2012.

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