Presidential election campaign: courting France’s archconservatives

Status: December 6th, 2021 12:03 p.m.

France’s conservatives want to topple the incumbent President Macron with Valérie Pécresse. But even in her party she is too moderate for many. Because pressure comes from the right edge.

By Sabine Wachs, ARD-Studio Paris

Unité is the word of the day after the French Conservative election. Shortly after Valérie Pécresse, President of the greater Paris area Ile de France, was presented as the top candidate, the 54-year-old promised to reunite her party: “I will do everything and give everything to enforce our values ​​and convictions. Together we will regain the pride of France strengthen, we will protect the French. “

Sabine Wachs
ARD-Studio Paris

At least since the defeat in the presidential elections in 2017, an internal dispute over the direction between forces from the right and those from the moderate camp has been simmering. Pécresses first words were now a concession to her rival Eric Ciotti, who had lost in the runoff election. 39 percent of the members had voted for the man from the right wing and his issues, among other things he wants to abolish the birthplace principle – French is who is born on French soil.

Zemmour praises Ciotti – he keeps his distance

After his defeat, Ciotti congratulated the winner, promised to support her, but at the same time made it clear:

I call for an open election campaign against Macronism. It is values ​​such as authority, identity and freedom that the French have chosen with us. Our programs are similar, Valérie. Our supporters demand security in the face of the brutalisation of our society, they demand respect for our culture and our way of life in the face of the danger of Islamism.

Although Pécresse is an advocate of a stricter immigration policy, unlike Ciotti, she had clearly distanced herself from the right-wing national candidate Eric Zemmour even before the candidate was elected. The ex-journalist, who had recently declared himself a presidential candidate, held his first major election campaign event – tactically adroit – just one day after the Conservatives were elected: “I call on all the Conservatives to join me, those who oppose the MPs feel betrayed by the Republicains, “he exclaimed there. “I extend my hand to all those who feel represented by my friend Eric Ciotti.”

Conspiracy myths instead of concrete proposals

The hall in a convention center near Paris, which seats around 22,000 people, was about half full. So far, Zemmour can officially only count on the support of two extremely conservative Catholic currents, which turned away from the party after the election of the top candidate. Ciotti had given Zemmour a refusal with his commitment to Pécresse. Zemmour also presented his new party called “Reconquette”, with which he says he wants to save France from impending decline.

Although the right-wing national also focuses on the issues of education, family and purchasing power, unlike in the case of Pécresse, there were no concrete proposals. Zemmour’s core themes remain the identity debate and the right-wing extremist conspiracy narrative of population exchange.

With these and other statements, Zemmour moves the general debate about immigration and security into the focus of the presidency election campaign. Whether he is eligible for a broad conservative audience with his partly racist positions, especially when the Les Republicains party rallies behind its candidate Valérie Pécresse, is questionable.

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