France’s Les Républicains in turmoil over election ‘betrayal’

France’s already weakened center-right party is in turmoil after one of its leaders struck a deal with President Emmanuel Macron’s rival party for next month’s regional elections, underlining the current domination of national politics by Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Renaud Muselier, president-elect of the Republicans (LR) of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, was stripped of the party’s ticket after the announcement of an electoral pact with Macron’s La République en Marche party intended to ward off the threat of a victory for the Le Pen National Rally.

Although the pact involves Macron’s LREM party withdrawing its separate challenge for the region and backing Muselier as a candidate, LR leaders were furious at what some called a betrayal or ‘takeover’ and said that this would be counterproductive in the struggle to maintain the extreme right. power.

“Huge sadness about that stab in the back,” mentionned Parliamentarian LR Eric Ciotti, adding that he knew “that they were preparing their vile soup in the kitchen of the Elysee”.

LR leader Christian Jacob immediately announced that incumbent Muselier would not be the LR candidate. “Fear of losing on one side and cynicism on the other have never produced a political program,” he said in a statement.

Unlike Macron’s centrist party, created just five years ago before his candidacy for the presidency in 2017, the Gaullist LR has a long tradition and is strong at the local and regional levels of French politics, and therefore also in the Senate.

But at the national level, the party has struggled since Macron’s victory in the presidential and legislative elections. In the 2019 European elections, the LR won less than 8.5% of the vote in France, behind even the Greens.

Along with the vertiginous decline of the socialists and communists of the traditional left, this has left Macron and Le Pen as dominant players on the national stage, and the latest opinion polls show they are the two candidates likely to qualify for the election. the race. -off in the presidential vote in a year. Both try to appeal to right-wing voters by stressing their attachment to public order and their determination to crack down on the Islamists.

Thierry Mariani, defector from the LR who is now the RN candidate for Le Pen in the south-east for the regional elections at the end of June, was quick to mock his old party for having compromised. “Little by little, the party is losing its way,” he told BFMTV.

Muselier’s controversial electoral pact with Macron’s party, announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex over the weekend, is unusual as it precedes the first round of the election. Normally, politicians only take such steps after the initial vote, with the left and right frequently making deals in what is known as a “republican front” to keep Le Pen and the far right out.

“Macron wants to prove, a year before the presidential election, that an alliance between him and the right is inevitable,” the right-wing Le Figaro said on Monday in a front-page editorial.

“It’s a risky bet. The evening of June 27 [when regional election results are announced] if its pioneer candidate loses, the LR-LREM alliance, presented as a bulwark against the RN, will look more like a springboard.

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