French right chooses Paris region chief to face Macron – Taiwan News

France’s conservative party on Saturday chose the moderate chief of the Paris region Valerie Pecresse to challenge French President Emmanuel Macron next year, a pick that would likely have a major influence on the shape of the campaign.

Members of The Republicans in the primary run-off vote chose Pecresse, 54, who is to be its first-ever female presidential candidate, over hardliner Eric Ciotti, party leader Christian Jacob announced.

Both had made the run-off after the first round of voting earlier last week upended expectations.

Photo: AP

The favorites ex-minister Xavier Bertrand and former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier were both knocked out and went on to back Pecresse.

“The party of General [Charles] de Gaulle … our political family, will have a female candidate in the presidential election. I am thinking of all the women of France today. I will give everything to triumph,” she said after the result was announced.

Pecresse, a former minister during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, won almost 61 percent of the vote among party members, while Ciotti won just more than 39 percent, Jacob said.

Ciotti accepted defeat and immediately pledged to support Pecresse.

The result is being keenly watched by Macron’s office. While all opinion polls have predicted centrist Macron should win the election, the emergence of a strong candidate on the traditional right is an important development.

The campaign has so far been waged on the right, with Macron’s government tacking rightward over the past months with tough rhetoric on immigration and preserving France’s secular system.

The Republicans failed to make the run-off in 2017, after its candidate, Francois Fillon, was felled by a graft scandal.

“The Republican right-wing is back. It will fight with implacable will. France cannot wait any more,” Pecresse said, promising to make France “respected in the world.”

Striking the tone for a campaign fought on the issues of security and immigration, she added: “I understand the anger of a people who feel powerless against violence, Islamist separatism and uncontrolled immigration.”

Some critics had scorned Pecresse’s chances, saying she is too similar to Macron.

However, distancing herself from Macron in her acceptance speech, she said she would not be a president “who tells everyone what they want to hear.”

“Between the outgoing president and me there is not just a difference in politics, we are different in nature,” she said.

The announcement of the Republicans candidate means that the main contours for the April next year election are largely set.

Macron has yet to declare, but is widely expected to seek re-election.

The left remains mired in disunity and communication problems, with the campaigns of the Socialist candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and Green candidate Yannick Jadot failing to make an impact. Both risk being outpolled by far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

His main rival in the 2017 election, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, is standing again. Far-right pundit Eric Zemmour’s declaration of his candidacy is a wild card that could yet have a major impact or simply fizzle out.

Zemmour was due to hold his first official campaign rally yesterday.

Reacting to Pecresse’s victory on Saturday, Le Pen described her as the “most Macronist” of The Republican’s candidates, calling on the party’s disappointed voters to join her.

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