Michel Barnier out, hard-Right backer of Zemmour in for final run to lead French conservatives


The winner of Saturday’s runoff will complete the field of candidates looking to take on the incumbent centrist Mr Macron – who has yet to officially announce his re-election bid – in April 2022.

Initially seen as a rank outsider, Mr Ciotti, MP and head of the powerful Alpes-Maritime LR federation, stood out via his hardline views on “authority, identity, liberty” during several TV debates dominated by immigration and security.

His claim to fame during debates was to be the “only candidate who didn’t vote for Macron” in his runoff versus far-Right rival Marine Le Pen in 2017.

Aping the far-Right, Mr Ciotti has warned against a “war of civilisation” if France fails to tackle immigration and Islamism, and has called for national preference when it comes to jobs and employment, as well as a French Guantanamo for convicted terrorists who have served prison time and are released but still pose a threat to national security.

An economic liberal, he is calling for an “end to inheritance tax”, a flat tax on businesses of just 15 per cent and wants to cut 250,000 civil servant posts.

Speaking after the vote, he said: “I am the only candidate who can bring about the rally of all Right-wing voters from wherever they come, just like Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.”

Ms Pécresse, meanwhile, is a former higher education and budget minister in the Sarkozy administration.

Calling herself “La Dame de faire”, a play on words with “Iron Lady” and the “Lady who gets things done”, she says she wants to “restore French pride”. The mother of three did well in debates, coming across as pugnacious and down-to-earth.

Speaking afterwards, the mother of three said: “I carry an unabashedly Right-wing project as France has no time to lose”.

“I am the only one who can beat Emmanuel Macron. I am a woman who wins and who acts. Have the audacity to choose a free woman who is passionate about France.”


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