French conservatives pick shortlisted candidates

In a shock result, Eric Ciotti and Valerie Pecresse came out on top in the first round of voting in primaries for the centre-right Les Républicains party. After another vote, one of them will go on to challenge Macron at the 2022 presidential election.

Valerie Pecresse (L) and Eric Ciotti (R) will battle to win the endorsement of The Republicans to stand as the party's candidate in France's 2022 presidential election.
Valerie Pecresse (L) and Eric Ciotti (R) will battle to win the endorsement of The Republicans to stand as the party's candidate in France's 2022 presidential election. (Photo by Joël SAGET / AFP)

France’s main conservative party whittled down its five presidential candidates to two on Thursday after the first round of a primary vote, with hard-right southern MP Eric Ciotti and head of the Paris region Valerie Pecresse progressing to a run-off.

The results spell disappointment for former EU negotiator Michel Barnier and ex-health minister Xavier Bertrand, who were seen by many as favourites at the start of the primary process, and are now out of the race.

Pecresse, seen as a moderate, is bidding to be France’s first woman president, while Ciotti is known for his hardline views on Islam and immigration which are often close to those of the far-right.

Analysts say the Republicans primary outcome is crucial for the shape of next April’s election, which President Emmanuel Macron is currently favourite to win.

Roughly 140,000 members of the Republicans party, which traces its roots back to French war hero Charles de Gaulle, were called to cast their ballots electronically. The results of the final round are to be announced on Saturday.

Party boss Christian Jacob told reporters that Pecresse and Ciotti had both received slightly over 28,000 votes each, with Ciotti gaining 25.59 percent and Pecresse 25 percent of ballots cast.

The party counts Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy as former presidents, but has been out of power at the national level since 2012.

Their candidate for the last presidential election in 2017, ex-prime minister Francois Fillon, started out as the favourite but saw his campaign derailed by sleaze allegations that included fraudulently employing his wife as a parliamentary assistant.

Member comments

  1. So the two candidates that actually might have known what they were doing, Barnier and Bertrand, have been side lined.

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.