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French conservatives oust leader over election pact with far right

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
French conservatives oust leader over election pact with far right
Leader of Les Republicains (LR) party Eric Ciotti (C) is surrounded by media as he walks outside the National Assembly in Paris on June 11, 2024 following the results of the June 9 European Parliament elections. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

French conservatives on Wednesday said they had removed their leader Eric Ciotti for trying to strike an electoral alliance with the far-right Rassemblement National (RN), although he insisted he was still in the post.

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The Les Républicains political committee had voted unanimously to oust Ciotti, MP Annie Genevard said, adding that the party "will present candidates to the French public with clarity and independence" at snap polls called by President Emmanuel Macron for June 30 and July 7.

READ MORE: Election news: 5-minute guide to the latest on France's snap elections

"I am and remain the president" of the party, Ciotti retorted in a post on X, formerly Twitter, calling the committee's decision "a flagrant violation of our statutes" that was illegal and void.

A mass revolt broke out among Républicain heavyweights after Ciotti announced his deal with the RN on TV on Tuesday.

He closed the party headquarters near the National Assembly lower house for the day after the political committee called an emergency meeting, saying there had "never been any meeting planned at the HQ this afternoon".

Ciotti claimed the move was for staff safety "after receiving threats".

The politician from Nice in southeast France "was no longer president from the second he made this insane decision" to announce an alliance with the RN, senior lawmaker Aurelien Pradie had earlier told broadcaster France 2.

Long a "party of government" bringing presidents like Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac to power, Les Républicains have been squeezed between President Emmanuel Macron's centrists and the far right since 2017.

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Leaders have struggled to chart an independent course, at times allying with Macron's minority government to pass key laws and at others threatening censure motions.

After Macron on Sunday announced snap elections in the wake of his own European vote battering, Ciotti on Tuesday declared he had made an electoral deal with the RN -- taking much of his own party by surprise.

"In politics, the answer isn't coalition deals, little pacts made behind closed doors to secure constituencies," said Laurent Wauquiez, Les Républicains president of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.

"We try to convince people, we may fail to convince people. But we do it clearly and with a spine," he added.

"Les Républicains have to communicate their ideas simply but clearly in this legislative battle."

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