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At the party headquarters, rue de Vaugirard, the crestfallen face of a few executives reveals the unexpected character of the result. At the end of a very close first round, the members of Les Républicains (LR) – 139,742 registered, 112,738 expressed – qualified Éric Ciotti and Valérie Pécresse for the second round of the congress to designate their candidate for the ‘presidential election. The deputy for the Alpes-Maritimes came first with 25.59% of the vote, ahead of the president of the Île-de-France region (25.00%).
The surprise lies as much in the composition of the head ticket as in the elimination of the two poll favorite polls, Xavier Bertrand and Michel Barnier. The president of the Hauts-de-France region is only fourth in the vote of the activists, with 22.36% of their votes. The former Brexit negotiator climbed to third position (23.92%) and Philippe Juvin in fifth (3.13%). The participation in this exclusively electronic ballot was 80.89%.
The snub is immense for Xavier Bertrand, who had hammered for months that he was in the best position of his camp to beat Emmanuel Macron. Eliminated in the first round, the former minister knew that he risked a lot to engage in an internal competition that he had long refused. “I would like to thank the LR members who placed their trust in me”, did he just write on Twitter, before calling to vote in favor of Valérie Pécresse in the second round.
In campaign for more than a year, the president of Hauts-de-France has long believed that he could impose himself on his old friends. Polls in support, he had first tried to step over internal democracy before resolving, in early October, to participate in the congress. Despite six weeks spent traveling through the federations to reweave a weak link (read our story), it pays today a posture considered arrogant towards its former formation and a positioning too “centrist” for some of the members.
The president of the party, Christian Jacob, took pride in the success of a “Very beautiful countryside”, the result is a blast for the opposition right. He first of all notes the absence of natural leadership from a formation whose ballots are scattered in a balanced way (only 3 points separate Éric Ciotti from Xavier Bertrand). It also confirms the right-wing polarization of a militant base which has placed the most right-wing offer of the five proposed in the lead.
In three months of campaigning, the elected representative of Nice supported the theory of the “great replacement”, defended the “national priority”, called for the union of the rights by the voters, validated Eric Zemmour and hammered his desire to “Overturn the table”. A few minutes after the results were announced, he hailed the success of the “Only project of rupture” and a “Strong right, which assumes itself and which no longer apologizes”. “I was very far from being the favorite but the activists decided differently”, launched the one who also chairs one of the most important LR federations in France, that of the Alpes-Maritimes.
Recently, the Île-de-France federation had gathered many new members, going, in the space of a few weeks, from 15,000 to 30,000 inserts, to represent nearly 25% of the party. . Even though none of the five candidates owned their constituents, these registrations were able to benefit the president of the region, Valérie Pécresse.
For the staff of the party, this victory of the most extreme line is a stone in the shoe when it comes to the second round of this internal ballot. The three eliminated candidates immediately called to vote for Valérie Pécresse. A front “all against Ciotti” which should join, in the hours to come, other national figures of LR. At the dawn of a second round which will stretch from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon, the primary stake is no longer victory in the presidential election. For the party, it is first of all a question of maintaining its party unity and the survival of a semblance of a “cordon sanitaire” with the far right.