Éric Ciotti is the new Les Républicains President
The right-wing hardliner will lead the party in a fight for political survival, squeezed between Macron and Philippe to his left, and Le Pen and Zemmour to his right.
62,000 members of Les Républicains voted this Sunday to choose who would lead them into the future, putting an end to a six-week campaign that saw hardliner Éric Ciotti see off Bruno Retailleau and Aurélien Pradié to become party President.
Having made it to the second round, Ciotti has a slightly more difficult time than many expected, winning with only 53.7% of the vote compared to cultural conservative Retailleau’s 46.3%.
Annie Genevard, the interim party head, argued that “the vote shows the dynamism off [the] movement”, but for many, including your favourite newsletter, this shows the party’s weakness in many ways.
For one, a seemingly pre-determined position is under construction within the party, with Eric Ciotti already having pre-emptively supported former LR president, Laurent Wauquiez, as the presidential candidate for the party in 2027.
The Party is clearly experiencing yet another right-ring tilt in its political history, with Ciotti being known for taking a hard line on immigration and crime, and having a strong preference for a more robust security presence.
This leads to the second problem: the party appears to be attempting to move further and further to the right in order to compete with Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour, and the far-right, having clearly taken this as the key lesson from their decade of electoral losses and their struggle to combat a renewed centre that has formed around Macron.
Not only this, but there’s a third issue: the problems for the party will continue to mount, and this situation will likely chase away the remaining moderates from the party, who will see in Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance and Edouard Philippe’s Horizon an alternative to an increasingly reductive and extremist right-wing LR that will be at odds with its republican history.
What were the reactions?
As you can expect, the reactions were less than kind across the board, with many taking a harsh view of this.
Gérard Araud, the Former French Ambassador to the UN and the US, called him “a candidate to be Marine Le Pen’s Prime Minister”
Valérie Hayer, an MEP for Emmanuel Macron’s party under the list l’Europe Ensemble, was equally harsh
Eric Ciotti is the man who:
would have voted Zemmour against Emmanuel Macron;
sees as the only divergence with the RN the “capacity (of LR) to govern”.
Among the “Republicans”, the dikes jump one after the other. Terrifying. #ElectionLR2022
Mujtaba Rahman, the Managing Director for Europe at Eurasia Group, wrote a thread in which he claimed that “The old, broad centre-right movement of Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy is no more”
Currently, Ciotti has already started to make his conditions clear on his support for Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, which will be his first major battle.
“If this reform makes it possible to save the system, we will contribute to it through our amendments to the National Assembly, to the Senate” he declared on RTL, arguing that he has “always defended an increase in the duration of contribution or of the starting age” He finished by announcing that, "if it goes in this direction, we will naturally be concerned about the general interest, but it is too early today to tell you what our vote will be",
“There are conditions, there are markers that we will set: save the pension system, rehabilitate small pensions at the level of the minimum wage, take into account the arduousness, also see what is happening on the special regimes”
For those who expect an immediate alliance with the far-right, Ciotti was more cagey on this point. When asked about a potential alliance with Eric Zemmour, he said the following:
“There will never be an agreement with anyone, We are a party which has a very strong history, which wrote the greatest pages of the Fifth Republic and we are going to win in independence and in clarity on a line to the right”
However, for those looking for reconciliation with those who were disappointed with the result and slammed the door behind them, many of whom helped write the history of the Fifth Republic, of the Union pour un mouvement populaire, and its successor, Les Républicains, Ciotti was much less kind.
“Those who leave, it’s a spasm. I will not remember them.”
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Seems to be a one more horror show of right-wing collectivism