The LR Finalists

2 December 2021

Ciotti 25.59% and Pécresse 25%, a perfect picture of the LR today. Ciotti is of course the most Zemmour-compatible of Les Républicains, while Pécresse, like Bertrand, was for a while a renegade who tried to remind the party that it once separated itself from the far right on principle. But, caught between Zemmour and Le Pen on one side and Macron on the other, principle ceased to be a viable strategy. Once Bertrand and Pécresse saw that their only chance was to return to the fold and sacrifice principle to the passions of the party base (more than 80% of the members participated in the first round vote), the die was cast. The contest would pit the right wing of the party, headed by Ciotti, against the survivor of the contest for the tattered center among Pécresse, Barnier (who finished third with 23.93%), and Bertrand (fourth, with 22.36%).

Whatever respect I once had for the “moderate” trio–each of whom has certain undeniable qualities–diminished rapidly as they ran, panting, after the party base, taking such extreme positions as a moratorium on all immigration, support for the Polish constitutional court’s declaration of national law’s supremacy over the EU treaties, and lurid exaggeration of French insecurity. Bertrand has now thrown his support to Pécresse, as indeed he should, and arithmetic suggests that she could well emerge the winner, unless the anti-female backlash is stronger than I anticipate.

She is certainly more experienced, competent, and, to put it bluntly, decent than Ciotti. But many LR voters will find her more like Macron than they would wish. Like him, she is a child of privilege–the daughter of a prominent law professor who served for a time as CEO of the Bolloré group (even if Bolloré now seems to be backing Zemmour, though possibly, as I have written elsewhere, in order to create an opening for someone like Pécresse by splitting the far right). She is a graduate of the ENA and HEC and has all the right connections. She would certainly be a better president than Ciotti, but she brings little to slake the populist thirst for an alternative to Macron. The French like to speak of their présidentiables as having the qualities necessary to “incarnate” the presidency. It’s hard to think of Ciotti in that role, whereas it fits the bon chic bon genre Pécresse like a glove–except that she is a woman, and there is a certain resistance in France to the very idea of a female president.

Final results Saturday. My prediction, malgré tout: Pécresse, 60-40.


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