The Strategist

Are French Republicans about to disappear?

06/17/2019 - 12:31

The former main center-right party of France The Republicans is experiencing a severe crisis. The lost presidential and then the European elections threatens its very existence.

Photo : Thomas Bresson
Photo : Thomas Bresson

The catastrophe in the elections to the European Parliament continued a series of failures experienced by the main center-right party of France, The Republicans. Before that, the party missed its chance in the 2012 presidential election, when Nicolas Sarkozy lost the second round to François Hollande, and in the 2017 election, when François Fillon left the first round.

According to the results of the May voting for the European Parliament, The Republicans got only the fourth place, letting ahead not only the presidential majority and the nationalists of Marine Le Pen, but also the Greens.

Laurent Wauquiez, who has been heading The Republicans since 2017, admitted defeat and resigned on June 2. There were more losses - on 6 June, Valérie Pécresse, who headed the council of Île-de-France, the most influential region of France, announced her resign from the party.

“I realized that restructuring of the Rights cannot happen from within and that it should be conducted outside the party,” she said. Three days later, members of the party, who are mayors of 72 cities, declared in the Journal du Dimanche their support for La République En Marche! Macronist movement.

In this regard, panic and confusion are reigning in The Republicans camp today. Acting party president Jean Leonetti reacted negatively to the departure of Ms. Pécresse. Another party functionary, Éric Ciotti, condemned this, stating that  you cannot escape from the ship in difficult times."

However, it is not clear who will be able to unite The Republicans, if such an association is possible.
Election of the new Head of the party will be held in October and there are not much of those who want to take the vacant seat. In an interview after his resignation, Laurent Wauquiez recalled the “wars of leaders” that destroyed the party.

One cannot but agree with him. The rivalry of François Fillon and Jean-Francois Copé for the chair in 2012 damaged the prestige of both the party and the participants in the scandal. If François Fillon would have been more cautious then, five years later he might not have had to endure neither the defeat in the elections, nor the scandals in the press, nor the prosecution.

In this situation, Head of the Senate, Gerard Larcher, invited party members to get together and decide how to proceed further in order to reconstruct the party. As stated by the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, the failure of the election shows only one thing - the party "made a mistake with the enemy." In his opinion, The Republicans should not have fought with President Macron, but support him and his reforms. Mayor of Nice insists that the quarrel of the two center-right parties, was won only by the far-right Marine Le Pen.

Christian Estrosi believes that nothing prevents the party from organizing a wider coalition based on The Republicans and Macron’s movement. However, such a scenario does not look very realistic. It remains unclear whether the winning party is interested in the coalition.

Meanwhile, the Ifop poll showed that 57% of supporters of The Republicans believe that the parties cannot survive alone and have to join forces before the upcoming municipal elections.

It remains to be decided where to go - to President Macron or to the right, to Marine Le Pen, who is heading the “second party of France.”