Members of France’s main conservative party are choosing their presidential candidate on Saturday, a decision that could significantly shape April’s election.
The head of the Paris region, Valerie Pecrese, and Eric Ciotti, a staunch parliamentarian from Nice, are competing in the final round of The Republicans primary.
About 140,000 registered members of Republicans are eligible to participate in electronic voting. The result is to be declared later on Saturday.
Immigration and security emerged as the party’s key issues mainly because of another presidential candidate, far-right former TV pundit Eric Zemour. A writer and former journalist with a conviction of many hate speech, Zemour formally announced his candidacy this week in a video that circulated anti-migrant, anti-Islam imagery.
Pecrese, 54, is a former minister and government spokesman under conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012.
If elected by party members and later by French voters, he has vowed to “break” with the centrist policies of incumbent President Emmanuel Macron Macron, who is seeking a second term, but has yet to formally has not declared its candidature.
Pecres said his first action as president would be to end France’s 35-hour work week so that employees work and earn more. It has promoted a tough stance on immigration, saying that those who enter the country illegally should be deported.
A supporter of the European Union, Pecres left the Republican Party in 2019 amid a leadership split after a poor showing in EU elections. She rejoined the party this year to be able to participate in the primary.
Ciotti, 56, has long been known for his positions as a right-wing part of the party, particularly on security, immigration and religion.
He wants France’s Christian roots to be incorporated into the constitution and a ban on Muslim girls from wearing the veil.
Ciotti vowed to reduce mass immigration and wants to change the law that grants nationality to people born in French territory. He instead proposes nationality, or “rights of blood” by descent.
He also wants to establish a “French Guantanamo” to imprison those convicted of terrorism-related charges.
Zemour and another well-known far-right candidate, National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, have expressed similar views.
The Republicans, which still lead many regional assemblies and hold a majority in the French Senate, are the last of France’s traditional parties to choose their presidential candidate.
On the left, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is running for the Socialist Party, and the Greens elected European MP Yannick Jadot, a former Greenpeace activist. The far-left leader of the rebel France party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is seeking the presidency for the third time.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / France