French right picks the woman who runs Paris region to take on Macron

Ania Nussbaum and James Regan, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

France’s Republicans nominated their first woman presidential candidate in a primary that sharpened the focus of the challenge facing Emmanuel Macron in next year’s election.

Valerie Pecresse won the final round of the conservative’s ballot on Saturday after 61% of members backed her. Eric Ciotti, a lawmaker from southern France often compared with far-right rival Eric Zemmour, took 39%.

By selecting the Paris region leader over Ciotti, the party of General Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy opted against joining the crowded battle for the extremist vote and instead chose a candidate who can compete with Macron for moderate voters.

Pecresse, 54, is wagering that she can reinvigorate the party that was set to reclaim the presidency in 2017 until her predecessor, Francois Fillon, was undermined by a corruption scandal that opened the door to Macron.

“What’s striking is that this seemingly old-fashioned right has picked a woman,” said Bruno Jeanbart, a pollster at Opinionway. “This will represent a powerful change.”

An adviser to Macron’s government said recently that Pecresse could pose a serious threat to his re-election. The president declined to comment on the ballot during an official visit to Saudi Arabia.


Pecresse said Saturday she would save public services including hospitals, schools and the legal system, defend social justice, reassert the value of work, raise France’s global standing and reform Europe.

“This election will play out on the right,”' she said Sunday on LCI. As part of her program, she outlined a plan to raise the retirement age to 65 through pension reform, slim down the public sector and “stop uncontrolled immigration.”

On Monday, Pecresse plans to travel to southern France to meet with Ciotti, who warned Sunday his support for her isn't without conditions, opening a possible rift within the party.

The latest Ifop poll published Nov. 28 showed Pecresse with 10% of votes, in fourth place behind Macron on 25%. His longtime rival and nationalist leader Marine Le Pen polled 19.5% and Zemmour, 15%.


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