Ousted French right leader arrives at party HQ, insists still in charge

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Ousted French right leader arrives at party HQ, insists still in charge
Leader of Les Republicains party Eric Ciotti. Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

The leader of France's right-wing Les Républicains party Eric Ciotti insisted on Thursday he was still in charge as he arrived at party HQ, after leaders voted to oust him for a shock alliance with the far right.


"I'm president of the party, I'm going to my office and that's it," Ciotti told reporters at the building in central Paris, calling his opponents' vote a "takeover" attempt and saying he had challenged its validity in court.

Ciotti's announcement that he was making a pact with Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National party in France's forthcoming parliamentary elections sparked shock across the country - and fury within his own party.

Les Répubicains leaders gathered in Paris on Wednesday to oust Ciotti, who locked the doors of the party HQ and refused to let them in.


They met in a nearby building and voted to immediately expel him from the party, a result that Ciotti refused to accept.

French social media exploded in hilarity at the dramatic developments, with jokes and memes including of Ciotti as a fugitive.

The party once dominated the French political landscape, producing presidents including Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. Since 2017 it has been dwindling into irrelevance and has been steadily moving to the right, especially since the appointment of Ciotti as leader in 2022.

The Alpes-Maritime representative's policies have been described as 'cut and paste Le Pen'.

Nevertheless there was national shock at the idea of the political heirs of Charles de Gaulle getting into bed with the far-right.  

The mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi, formerly of Les Républicains now a member of the centrist Horizons, told Ciotti that "you're a disgrace to our city".

The lightning election campaign, with the first round of voting on June 30th, also appears to have shattered the RN's smaller far-right rival Reconquête over whether to ally with the heavyweight formation.

Marion Maréchal, who led the list in Sunday's European vote, called for an alliance with the RN - whose figurehead Marine Le Pen is her aunt.


"She's reached the end of the road, she's shutting herself out of this party that she's always despised," Reconquête founder Eric Zemmour said late on Wednesday.

While smaller outfits fight amongst themselves, Le Pen's RN appears set to cruise to a massively increased parliamentary presence from its current 88 out of 577 seats.

The party "will come out on top of the election with the largest parliamentary group but short of an absolute majority," University College London political scientist Philippe Marlière predicted.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told broadcaster France Inter on Thursday that voters stood before a "societal choice".

Besides the "extreme left" and "far right", Macron's centrist camp offered a "progressive, pro-work, democratic, republican" alternative, he said.

Attal spent much of his time attacking the left, after Socialists, Communists, Greens and hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) reestablished an alliance that broke apart over the response to Hamas's October 7th attack on Israel and the ensuing Gaza conflict.

"I'm thinking of all the social-democratic voters on the left who don't see themselves in this," Attal said.

Left-wing leaders were occupied with who might be prime minister if their alliance comes out on top, with LFI's repeat presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and senior MP François Ruffin throwing their hats in the ring.

Socialist Party (PS) chief Olivier Faure said that someone "who is not the most divisive but allows us to unite the country" should be PM - potentially ruling out Melenchon, who attracts fierce loyalty from supporters as well as intense dislike across much of the political spectrum.

Find the latest news on France's snap elections in our election section HERE.



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