As The Republicans return to politics this weekend, the question of how to determine the future right-wing candidate for the 2022 presidential election is on everyone’s mind. Although strongly criticized internally, the organization of a primary could be necessary.
The right makes its political comeback, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 August, but in dispersed order. Between the summer universities of the Les Républicains (LR) party, Saturday in La Baule, the rally the same day of Libres !, the movement of Valérie Pécresse, in Brive-la-Gaillarde, the “great republican evening” of Eric Ciotti on Saturday evening in Nice and the ascent by Laurent Wauquiez on Sunday of Mont Mézenc, there are almost as many events planned over the two days as there are now officially declared candidates.
However, the landscape has brightened significantly this week. With the renouncements of Laurent Wauquiez and Bruno Retailleau and the announcements of Eric Ciotti and Michel Barnier, they are now five to hope to become the champion of the right in 2022: the president of the Hauts-de-France region, Xavier Bertrand , the president of the Île-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, the mayor of La Garenne-Colombes and head of the emergency department of the Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris, Philippe Juvin, the deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes Éric Ciotti, and the former European Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.
It remains to be seen how to decide between all these small people to arrive at a name likely to unite this political family and beyond. This is what is at stake for the month to come, before the LR congress, on September 25, which must endorse a candidacy unanimously or, failing that, a method.
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In theory, the party’s statutes are clear: a primary similar to that organized in 2016 should determine the right-wing candidate for the next presidential election. But in practice, its future organization is far from obvious.
First there is the problem Xavier Bertrand, who swears since the launch of his candidacy in March that he will not participate in any primary. The former minister, who left Les Républicains at the end of 2017, repeats it tirelessly: “The primary is not my business because I want direct contact with the French”, he insisted, Monday 23 August , on Europe 1.
There are also fears over such a primary and the specter of another presidential defeat. LR chairman Christian Jacob is not in favor, as are most of the party’s leaders. “We were all traumatized by the 2016 primary. For us, the primary is a factor of divisions because it creates teams and it is then very difficult to reconcile behind,” said the MEP and vice-president of LR , Agnès Evren, contacted by France 24, who remembers the violent attacks, five years ago, between François Fillon and Nicolas Sarkozy in particular.
“Our difficulty is that no one has imposed themselves naturally”
So how do you do it? By getting into the campaign very early, Xavier Bertrand hoped to kill the match before it started. But five months after its announcement, it is clear that the competition exists. Admittedly, the president of Hauts-de-France still obtains better voting intentions for 2022 than his opponents, but the gap is narrowing. A study conducted by Ipsos for the Free movement! of the president of Île-de-France, revealed by Point Friday, August 27, thus shows that Valérie Pécresse (14% of voting intentions) is doing almost as well as Xavier Bertrand (15%) when his name is proposed to represent the right in the first round of the presidential election.
“Nobody will kill the match. It is not possible”, recognizes the head of the group The Republicans in the National Assembly, Damien Abad, support of Xavier Bertrand, contacted by France 24. “The stake is to knowing who is best placed and most able to bring our family together to win in 2022, he continues. But what is certain is that in the end, there should only be one left. “
Here is at least one point on which everyone agrees: the right can only have a chance of winning in 2022 if it leaves united behind a unifying candidate. The party therefore decided to conduct an investigation to find out if this rare pearl existed.
A vast qualitative study will be carried out from August 30 with 15,000 voters from the right and the center to judge the rallying capacities of the various candidates. It will also judge their chances of beating Emmanuel Macron, their ability to cope with the health crisis or to meet the aspirations of the French.
“It is our members who will decide. All ambitions are legitimate in our family. We have a lot of talents, women and men, in particular at the head of large communities which have experience of State management and able to hold the bar ” pic.twitter.com/WRRlHuRyte
– Agnes Evren (@AgnesEvren) August 28, 2021
“In the light of this study, the results of which will be presented at our congress at the end of September, our activists will decide whether a candidate clearly emerges or whether it is necessary to organize a primary”, explains Agnès Evren.
The month of September promises to be decisive. “Our difficulty is that no one has imposed themselves naturally, observes a high-ranking LR personality from France 24 who prefers to remain anonymous. For the moment, all the candidates are looking at each other like a faience dog. . But we are in reality only at the beginning of the process. The idea of the study is to dissuade certain candidates. To win a presidential election, you have to gather your camp, but also beyond your camp . We will see if Bertrand, Pécresse or Barnier are able to bring together a majority of French people. “
Within the Republicans, we therefore cross our fingers that a name comes out of the hat of the investigation entrusted to Ifop, just to close the debate and quickly turn the page of the selection of the candidate. “It would make it possible to quickly structure a campaign team and to be in the match against Emmanuel Macron from the fall,” said Damien Abad.
Pressures on Xavier Bertrand to play together
However, this ideal scenario is unlikely to happen. Hence the intensive lobbying carried out by several candidates in favor of a primary. “There will naturally be a primary, judged Eric Ciotti, Thursday, August 26, on BFM TV. We do not have a personality that imposes itself naturally, not a candidate who spontaneously brings together all the qualities of the leader towards whom everyone converges. “
“Given the dynamic generated by my campaign this summer and the valuable candidates who have already declared themselves, the primary seems to me more than ever inevitable,” said Valérie Pécresse in an interview, Friday, August 27, at the Parisian.
The difficulty would then be to convince Xavier Bertrand to participate. To put pressure, a little music on the importance of the collective was also set up this week.
“This choice, I also make it because I do not want to add division to the division”, first affirmed Laurent Wauquiez, explaining the reasons for his non-candidacy. “Today, applications are multiplying. I will not add to this dispersion,” said Bruno Retailleau for his part.
The same chorus continued on Saturday, this time in the mouths of the declared candidates. “In the end, there will have to be a single candidate. I will always play as a collective, launched Valérie Pécresse from the start in Brive. I am no longer with the Republicans but I feel deeply on the right and I will accept the rules of the game, ”she insisted.
“I will not participate in any division,” promised his side Michel Barnier, in La Baule, assuring his “friendship” and his “respect” for “all those who are involved in this competition”. Another candidate, the doctor and mayor Philippe Juvin also said that “the condition of the primary is unity”.
Xavier Bertrand will he hear these calls to rally? He remains for the moment determined to present himself. If he persists, Republicans risk finding themselves in an uncomfortable situation to say the least: choosing between the winner of their primary and a candidate who did not participate.