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French right-wing party to choose candidate for presidential election

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By Lauren Chadwick
From left: candidates Philippe Juvin, Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pecresse, Michel Barnier, Eric Ciotti
From left: candidates Philippe Juvin, Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pecresse, Michel Barnier, Eric Ciotti   -   Copyright  From left: JULIEN DE ROSA /AFP; Ludovic Marin, Pool/Charles Platiau, Pool/Stephanie Lecocq, Pool/Lionel Cironneau via AP Photo   -  

France’s main right-wing political party, the Républicains, will this week choose its candidate for next year's presidential election.

Around 150,000 supporters of the party will vote on a five-candidate shortlist, with the winner announced on 4 December in Paris.

The party opted for a congress of its supporters instead of an open political primary.

Party president Christian Jacob will announce the results of the first round on Thursday, 2 December, with the final two candidates being voted on from midnight on Friday.

The right-wing liberal economic party was behind the presidencies of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy -- then called the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) before changing its name in 2015 --and continues to have a big influence in French politics with the most seats in the Senate and a good score in the recent regional elections.

But the candidates will face a challenge from TV pundit Eric Zemmour and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Current President Emmanuel Macron, who is polling higher than any other of the potential candidates, also pulled politicians from the Républicain party for his government.

Recent polls have shown that party members are most concerned about immigration, insecurity and radical Islam, subjects that the right-wing candidates have focussed on.

There are still five candidates in the running who participated in four televised primary debates ahead of the election. Here's a look at who they are.

Philippe Juvin

JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP
Philippe JuvinJULIEN DE ROSA/AFP

Juvin is the mayor of La Garenne-Colombes and the head of emergency services at the Georges-Pompidou European Hospital in Paris.

In a recent editorial, he spoke about reinforcing the health system and pursuing a more aggressive strategy to deal with COVID-19. He also wants to address rural areas of France where there are doctor shortages.

In the most recent debate, he called for a "Schengen 2" of countries with the same migration policies. He's called for fighting against the "misuse" of asylum but that France should do more to welcome foreign students.

Xavier Bertrand

Ludovic Marin, Pool Photo via AP
Presidential candidate Xavier Bertrand speaks during a visit to AmiensLudovic Marin, Pool Photo via AP

A former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, Xavier Bertrand was re-elected with a large margin as president of the Hauts-de-France region last June.

The 56-year-old has accused the Macron government of laxness in its immigration policy. He wants to reduce the number of work visas.

Bertrand also supports imposing mandatory sentences for aggression against police officers.

In polls, he is the best-positioned candidate for the Républicains to face Macron, Le Pen and Zemmour in the first round of the 2022 presidential elections but is still unlikely to make a second round.

Valérie Pécresse

Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP
Paris Ile de France administrative region president Valerie Pecresse arrives prior to the start the ceremony marking Armistice Day.Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP

Pécresse is also a former minister in the government of Nicolas Sarkozy and is currently president of Île-de-France, France's most populous region.

Like many of the candidates, she's taken a tough on immigration, calling to end "automatic naturalisation" at 18 and to issue quotas for countries.

She would also like to reduce public spending and government bureaucracy. Pécresse is the only woman running in the Républicain congress.

Michel Barnier

Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP
Michel Barnier speaks during a debate on the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement in Brussels.Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP

The 70-year-old former Brexit negotiator has had a long career in French and European politics and is well known to the public.

Barnier was a former regional council in his home département of Savoie and worked as a government minister under three different French presidents.

He was also formerly a European parliamentarian and commissioner. Most recently, he was known as the chief negotiator for the EU's divorce deal with the United Kingdom.

He has said he will be a "serious" president. He proposes a moratorium on immigration to "regain control" on a situation that is "out of control".

Eric Ciotti

David Niviere, Pool via AP
Eric Ciotti speaks after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented his plan to exit from the lockdown at the National Assembly in Paris.David Niviere, Pool via AP

The MP from the Alpes-Maritime region has taken a hard line on many issues.

In particular, Ciotti wants stricter rules on obtaining nationality and prioritising the French for housing and jobs.

He has said that there is a "war of civilisations" between Islamism and "Jewish-Christian" civilisation.

In a race between Macron and far-right tv pundit Eric Zemmour, Ciotti has said he would support Zemmour.