Valérie Pécresse, a self-professed mix of Merkel and Thatcher
the next phases for the 2022 campaign for Pécresse and Macron
France’s center right Les Républicains (LR) now has a formidable candidate in Valérie Pécresse, a twice elected President of the Paris Ile de France region. She is a deft politician who negotiated a tough universities reform under President Chirac and has been a forceful advocate for more female leadership. For background: I’m a French born dual France Canada citizen and a former les Républicains supporter. I switched my support to Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
Valérie Pécresse describes herself as a mix of Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher, both well known to French voters. Beyond the rally applause line it’s a smart way to deflect endemic misogyny, which has plagued France for decades. The country has had a single female Prime Minister, Edith Cresson, in 1990. It’s way past time for female leadership in France, one of the last bastions of 20th century male-centric leadership models.
Emmanuel Macron will need to play defense to keep his right flank because Valérie Pécresse has a formula to reconquer a large Sarkozy era center right, when in 2007 he had neutered the elder Le Pen and garnered more than 30% of voters in the first round, a first since Mitterrand in 1988.
Pécresse is vying for the same performance, watch Macron’s center left now as Hidalgo fails. In 2017 Macron was able to outflank both right AND left due to specific circumstances with LR Fillon and Socialist Hamon. Nonetheless, given his leadership style Macron has so far failed to build a true “new” party with En Marche.
It’s conceivable that Pécresse will play up a traditional Presidential stance i.e. delegate vs Macron’s centralized power model. Veteran journalist Franz Olivier Giesbert’s analysis of de Gaulle vs Macron on the topic on delegation is on point as accelerated reforms will be a key campaign argument.
The next phases of the 2022 “Présidentielle”:
1/ Macron will play up his alliance with former PM Edouard Philippe, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, all former top LR who can talk up Macron vs Pécresse.
2/En Marche will showcase its centrist model as what France aspires to: smart and competent who gets the job done.
3/Macron will finally unveil a Green/EELV friendly platform and double down on his pro EU bona fides and challenge Pécresse whose supporters are EU skeptics.
4/ As candidate Hidalgo languishes below 10%, Macron will keep peeling off Parti Socialiste leaders and display alliances with centrists, to claim, like Giscard in 1977, 2 Frenchmen out of 3
5/ Macron will play to the max his “feud” with billionaire Vincent Bolloré and claim the media are “against him”. Bolloré now controls Canal+, CNews (where he recruited Zemmour personally), and more recently Europe 1, ParisMatch and Le Journal du Dimanche. As an aside, it can be argued Bolloré is being quite careless to call out Macron semi- publicly, as it gives him no plausible deniability. Bolloré providing Macron with a much needed angle to deflect elite+media support. Never has a French billionaire been so overt in calling for a sitting President to lose. This could prove a costly mistake for Bolloré as he will see the French government build a case on media concentration.
Now that Valérie Pécresse is the official candidate for LR, here’s what I expect will happen:
1/her campaign will work double time to counter her Parisian image and talk up her non-Paris links (her husband has Corrèze roots for example). Watch for Pécresse in boots during hunting season for example: her mentor Gérard Larcher, Senate President, is an avid hunter in the Yvelines forest. There’s a photo op coming next week.
2/ Pécresse will want to project an image as a “rassembleuse de talents” and will actually use the words “l’équipe France” vs Macron’s solitary style of leadership. Pécresse will insist on this and reference de Gaulle
3/ Pécresse will challenge Macron as France accedes to the EU Presidency on Jan 1. She will portray Macron as out of step w the rest of the EU and proclaim her own style of diplomacy “La France Forte” etc. Macron needs to be extra careful in how he manages the EU Presidency during campaigning.
The irony in LR picking Pécresse as a candidate is that she had left the party in 2019, she had said at the time that “the rebuilding of the Right won’t happen from within the party and should occur outside its confines”. She was 100% right and her next steps will be closely monitored for her ability to build a broad enough coalition to match Macron’s.