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December 11, 2017

A new era for the French right

Laurent Wauquiez is the new leader of Les Républicans. He was elected with 74.64% of the votes, so no second round is needed. His opponents Florence Portelli, former spokesman for François Fillon; and Mael de Calan, in charge of Alain Juppé's campaign in 2016, got 16.11% and 9.25% respectively.

After a year of unpredictable turns in French elections, including the two main party primaries, this was a straight-forward one. It delivered what was expected all along. In that sense, Wauquiez is already marking his difference from Emmanuel Macron. 

With nearly 100,000 votes, Wauquiez demonstrated that he can mobilise support. His unequivocal success will give him authority inside the party (remember Nicolas Sarkozy only got 64% of the votes), even if the overall participation rate of 42.46% was below the 52% seen last time. 

Wauquiez promised a new era for the right in France, and a renewal of the party with new faces, a new organisational structure and a new agenda, all to be rolled out in the next three months. Wauquiez called on the cooperation of those heavyweights, Xavier Bertrand et Valérie Pécresse, who did not endorse him. What will Alan Juppé now do? Or the other moderates? Will they stay inside the party, or join the Macron camp? The strong divergences with Wauquiez over Europe and national identity are obvious. The next few months will show how much divergence is actually possible under Wauquiez' leadership.

Wauquiez' aim is to face Macron in the presidential elections of 2022. With his red anorak reminding people of the railway workers from the SNCF, Wauquiez styles himself as the candidate of the provinces. Wauquiez has chosen to paint Macron as the president of the rich and of the cities, that fare well through globalisation. This could well work, writes Journal du Dimanche.

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December 11, 2017

Growing scepticism of a grand coalition

What seems to be happening in Berlin at the moment is that Martin Schulz and his top team now want the grand coalition, but are despairing over their own party's absolute hostility to the idea. Newspapers are reporting that Sigmar Gabriel wants to become finance minister, which underlines suspicions that the SPD's senior ministers just want to hang on to their ministerial limousines.

Within the CDU, there are also know those who warn that the party should not sacrifice its principles by agreeing to a coalition at any price. Jens Spahn, a member of the CDU's executive committee, says that he would prefer a minority government in that situation. The SPD's newly elected general secretary, Lars Klingbeil, said that he was preparing the party for new elections - just in case. 

FAZ notes in a background article that the SPD's leadership will be formally seeking coalition negotiations. But there are voices in within it who believe that the CDU and CSU will be much more tougher negotiators than last time, since both Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer face internal party critics. These include Spahn, or the designated Bavarian prime minister Markus Söder, who are demanding a more conservative profile. The SPD's leadership has made promises to its own supporters that they may not be able to fulfil.

The developments in German politics support our view that a grand coalition is unlikely to be agreed or, if agreed, unlikely to be accepted by the SPD's members. But the party will have to go through the motions to arrive at that point.

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