France: what are the odds for Valérie Pécresse?
France's conservative party Les Republicains will send Valérie Pécresse into the 2022 presidential race. The head of the Île-de-France region prevailed in a run-off against staunchly right-wing Eric Ciotti. Former favourites such as Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier were eliminated in the first round. Commentators discuss whether Pécresse can hold her own against Macron and the far-right candidates Zemmour and Le Pen.
Two-thirds Merkel and one-third Thatcher
El Periódico de Catalunya sees the conservative candidate as a pleasant surprise:
“The Republicans, who were brought down in 2017 by the corruption of their candidate, appear to be coming to life again. ... ... Pécresse is economically liberal, prioritises security (without Le Pen's exaggerations), and defines herself as two-thirds Merkel and one-third Thatcher. ... If Valérie Pécresse manages to consolidate her position with her modern language, she could make it to the second round in two ways. One would be to stay ahead of Le Pen and Zemmour. ... The other, albeit less likely, would be that Macron garners few left-wing votes in the first round, falls behind Valérie Pécresse and is eliminated.”
The biggest challenge so far for Macron
If Pécresse makes it to the second round, many things could happen - but it's a big if, writes The Irish Times:
“Pécresse is potentially a strong candidate, but she faces the tough task of drawing support from two mutually antagonistic constituencies, on the right and in the centre. ... As centre-left and centre-right self-destructed in the run-up to the 2017 presidential election, Macron slipped through the middle to claim a surprise victory. If he meets the same opponent again, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Rassemblement National, he will almost certainly be re-elected. The greatest threat he faces is the candidature of Valérie Pécresse, but at this stage her route to the second round appears unclear.”
Election campaign is heating up now
The erstwhile favourites for France's top job are facing strong competition, notes the Aargauer Zeitung:
“Right-wing populist Marine Le Pen has 'Trumpist' Eric Zemmour breathing down her neck. And President Emmanuel Macron, who has so far been leading in the polls, is suddenly facing competition from a solid, telegenic, middle-class rival, because Pécresse mobilises the same centre-right voter base. In France's increasingly fickle, fast-moving politics, all four have a chance of advancing to the second round. The Macron-Le Pen duel which we saw five years ago is no longer the only conceivable constellation.”
Avoid a shift to the right
Pécresse is the right person for the job but she must be up to the challenges at hand, Le Temps writes:
“In choosing a woman presidential candidate for the first time in their history, and one who many see as very competent, the Republicans - who would have won in 2017 if François Fillon's scandal hadn't torpedoed his chances - have given themselves a real opportunity. Now Pécresse has a moral duty to ensure that in this heated, angry atmosphere her economic and social visions for the country do not merge with the sovereignist, xenophobic and reactionary theories that are currently shaking France.”
Conservatives facing irrelevance?
Público is concerned about the democratic right:
“Macron promised to reform France - a mammoth task in a country that is known for always preferring revolution. Along the way, he destroyed the old Socialist Party. ... To win this time, the president no longer needs to 'blow up' the left. What is at stake now is the future of the democratic right. If Les Républicains don't manage to free themselves from the stubborn Macron-Le Pen-Zemmour pincers and fail to reach the second round again, according to analysts they risk imploding and suffering the same fate as the Socialists after 2017. Once again, democratic Europe is holding its breath.”
Plenty of gaps to fill
Causeur says France needs the republican right now more than ever:
“That means one that is prepared to do what it takes to defend France and its identity, and to protect the French people. One that is less concerned with adherence to abstract national and European principles than with effective weapons for renewing the rule of law from the ground up. ... Instead of vagueness, obscurity and indecision, instead of forgetting duties to secure re-election, instead of devaluing France to please its adversaries, instead of a frenzied cult of memory focused on a retreat to the past, the right of today, which has done an impeccable job so far, will put forward a counter-proposal with clarity, distinctness, determination and respect for its commitments.”