PARIS, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Valerie Pecresse, who has described herself as “one-third Thatcher, two-thirds Merkel”, has won the French conservative Les Republicains (LR) ticket for the 2022 presidential election, the party said on Saturday after a primary election.
Opinion polls have so far shown the 54-year-old head of the Paris Ile-de-France region winning about 11% of the votes at best in next April’s election, giving her little chance of making it to a second-round runoff, let alone winning it.
With nearly 61% of the votes in a runoff, Pecresse beat right-winger Eric Ciotti for the LR ticket in a primary that was a test for the party’s future and whether it would remain anchored in its centre-right tradition or lurch to the right.
Pecresse can potentially appeal to the centre-right voters Macron very much depends on, but will have to seek support from more conservative voters also courted by right-wing candidates.
The unexpected candidacy of hard-right commentator Eric Zemmour has overturned the conventional wisdom that the presidential election will be a rerun of the 2017 duel between Macron and the far-right National Rally’s Marine Le Pen.
Though more moderate than Ciotti, Pecresse and her rivals for the LR ticket all drifted further to the right on immigration and on law and order.
She campaigned on promises to halve the number of residence permits for non-EU migrants, stiffen judicial sentences in tough neighbourhoods where police are under pressure, and ban women accompanying their children on school trips from wearing a Muslim headscarf.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Sophie Louet; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by David Clarke and Kevin Liffey)