French conservatives eye Macron 2022 clash

The French conservative Les Républicains party, which has been reeling from electoral defeat and internal divisions since political maverick Emmanuel Macron's arrival in power in 2017, now senses blood after their relative success in regional elections.

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France’s conservative party today urged its presidential contenders to pull together to oust Emmanuel Macron from the Élysée Palace next April, reports The Times.

Christian Jacob, leader of the Republicans, warned rivals not to squander the centre-right’s chances of recapturing the presidency after Xavier Bertrand, the frontrunner, used his re-election in Hauts-de-France in the north to cast himself as the de facto candidate. “No one wins with a solo act, especially not a presidential election,” Jacob said.

The three leading contenders, Bertrand, Valérie Pécresse, president of the Paris region, and Laurent Wauquiez, of the Rhône-Alpes, were “all aware that the one who is anointed candidate must show an ability to pull together”, Jacob said.

Bertrand, a former Republicans cabinet minister who is no longer in the party but remains influential, appeared determined to seize the conservative mantle after beating the candidate of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally by 25 points. In the last election, in 2015, she came close to winning. The centre right kept control of all seven of their regions, the Rally won none and Macron’s En Marche was badly beaten with only about 11 per cent of the vote in the two rounds of the election.

The losses for Le Pen and Macron’s camp in the 12 mainland councils in the lowest turnout in modern history have rewritten the script for the 2022 campaign. Until now, both Macron and Le Pen have been portraying it as an inevitable replay of their duel in 2017.

“The presidential race for next year has become three-way,” Bertrand told Les Echos.

Read more of this report from The Times.

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