Thursday, December 9

Michel Barnier joins the long list of leaders competing to unite the French center-right | France

This week’s declaration by Michel Barnier, the former EU chief negotiator on Brexit, that he aspires to run for French president has added to the uncertainty of a crowded field of candidates vying to represent the traditional right in elections. next spring.

The right-wing Les Républicains, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, faces an increasingly complex battle to identify a presidential candidate in 2022 to rival the centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen, who polls show could return to facing each other in the final.

Barnier has joined a long list of politicians vying for election as a candidate from the French right.

The 70-year-old former EU commissioner is portrayed by his close allies as a veteran of consensus politics seeking to unite the right wing and “reconcile” a divided France that has been struck by disillusionment and abstention from the voters, as well as street protests such as the yellow vests movement and the current demonstrations against the Covid health pass.

But while Barnier’s role in the Brexit negotiations earned him respect among bureaucrats and diplomats as a skilled behind-the-scenes operator, he is not a household name in France.

Despite his long political career, which began at age 14 when he campaigned for the presidential race of Charles de Gaulle in 1965 and later saw him serve in local politics in the Alps, as well as in parliament and government, his Image in France is still lecturer and slightly austere.

Barnier, a grandfather, has seen the French media question whether at age 70 he could compete against France’s youngest postwar leader, Macron, who has already stolen voters from the pro-European center-right base that Barnier seeks to appeal to.

The Républicains have until the end of September to decide whether to hold an open primary vote to elect a front man. Next year’s presidential elections are seen as open to surprises and challenges that could alter Macron-Le Pen’s final prognosis. But to stand a chance, the traditional right would have to rally behind a single candidate.

Barnier, who defines his political stance as “patriotic and European” this week, put forward his views as “restoring state authority” and controlling immigration. He did not say whether he would agree to run for a possible primary race for the Les Républicains party.

So far, the key player in a Les Républicains primary career would be Valérie Pécresse, head of the wealthy Île-de-France region outside Paris and a former budget minister under Sarkozy. She has said that it is time for a female candidate, she is currently outperforming Barnier and is better known.

But the dispute over the choice of a candidate is dominated by Xavier Bertrand, another former Sarkozy minister, who now runs the northeastern Hauts-de-France region. He is voting slightly above Pécresse, and while campaigning in France to win over working-class voters, he argues that he is the only political heavyweight who could beat Macron and Le Pen. He has stated that he will run for president no matter what and refuses to participate in the party’s primary elections.

Laurent Wauquiez, a young former party leader, warned this week against “new divisions” saying that “right-wing presidential candidates are multiplying at a worrying rate.” He said he would not run himself.

Meanwhile, the Socialist Party will meet this weekend with its leader supporting the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, for the presidential candidacy.

The Socialists have yet to define how and when they will vote to approve Hidalgo’s candidacy.

The left-wing vote is currently split between several potential candidates, including far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who will definitely run, and the Greens, who will elect their candidate in September.

Macron is unlikely to announce a re-election bid until early next year. Le Pen has already stated that he will run.

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