It was a first meeting. As the deadline approaches, the leaders of LR met on Tuesday evening around Eric Ciotti, the president of the party to discuss the next European elections. The choice of a head of the list promises to be difficult for a party which has not yet completely decided on the right strategy to follow to count during this election.
The stakes are high. In 2019, the resounding failure (8.5%) of the list led by a newcomer to politics with a conservative orientation, François-Xavier Bellamy, had consecrated the decline of the right at the polls and led to the resignation of Laurent Wauquiez, then president of the party. “They said that the election should not be dramatized, reports a manager after this first progress report. It is crucial but it is not a question of survival”.
Eric Pauget, deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes and close to Eric Ciotti advances as well as “the Europeans have never been a good election for the Republicans”. The stated objective remains very cautious: “Do better than Valérie Pécresse’s single-digit score and no less than our latest results for 2019”, summarizes this parliamentarian. The party will nevertheless have to decide on the line to adopt if it wants to avoid another stinging defeat and choose a leader to embody it.
François-Xavier Bellamy, the choice of continuity, is determined to try his luck again, on the strength of his experience at the head of the French delegation of the European People’s Party (EPP). This close friend of Bruno Retailleau, executive vice-president of the Republicans, has the advantage of being able to compete in the heart of the conservative electorate with a Reconquest list possibly led by Marion Maréchal. But with the risk of reducing the right to its “lowest common denominator” while LR is careful to present itself as a government party.
An alternative could emerge in the person of Michel Barnier, former minister and chief negotiator for Brexit, who seems more able to address the right-wing electorate disappointed by Emmanuel Macron. The name of this former candidate for the right-wing primary recently came back into the game even if his entourage denies wanting to campaign. “You will count it in the debate”, we are content to advance even if, behind the scenes, we do not hesitate to recall the pitiful score of LR in the last election.
Wauquiez distances himself
But there remains a concern about “the age of the captain” in the face, for example, of the candidacy of Jordan Bardella, 27 years old, MEP and president of the RN, whose list came first in 2019. In expectation, Eric Ciotti would consult with all his might, with the slim hope of succeeding in bringing about a third way, perhaps directly stemming from civil society.
“It’s the five-legged sheep. There will be no pleasant surprises. Given our state, it is not the candidates who will be in a hurry, ”evacuates a strategist when some, at LR, would lean towards the hypothesis of a pair with a woman. Above all, the president of the party seeks to ociate everyone on the right so as not to be the only accountable for yet another defeat. Especially since Laurent Wauquiez, branded by the failure of 2019, takes care to distance himself with his political family.
Below 5% of the vote, LR would, for the first time in its history, have no elected representatives sitting in Brussels. The meeting format, that of a working group, adopted on Tuesday should be repeated several times a month by the end of the year and the final designation of a head of the list.