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.