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French centre-right leader Ciotti calls for pact with far right in surprise move

Les Republicains leader Eric Ciotti attends a media conference as in Paris, 14 March 2022
Les Republicains leader Eric Ciotti attends a media conference as in Paris, 14 March 2022 Copyright Michel Euler/AP
Copyright Michel Euler/AP
By Euronews
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Eric Ciotti, the leader of French moderate conservatives Les Republicains, is seeking to save his party from a likely painful defeat in the 30 June and 7 July snap French parliamentary elections. Yet, his decision might split it in half.

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After Les Republicains (LR) leader Eric Ciotti announced on Tuesday he would throw his hat in the ring together with the far-right National Rally in the snap elections, the relations between French liberals and those right-of-centre took a further nosedive.

Ciotti, the president of the EPP-affiliated party, said to the French channel TF1 that his party has to create "an alliance with the National Rally, with its candidates, and all of those people that share the ideas of the right."

Ciotti has called the conservative forces to gather and "stand against the powerlessness of the Macronisme and the danger of La France Insoumise," the leftist parliamentary group of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

According to Ciotti, this alliance could be the last attempt for the moderate conservatives to survive after the political defeats suffered between 2017 and the last electoral races.

Eric Ciotti, leader of The Republicans
Eric Ciotti, leader of The Republicans David Niviere, Pool via AP

The right-wing accord is expected to consist of an agreement between the LR and Marine Le Pen's National Rally (RN) to withdraw competing candidates in French constituencies to maximise the chances of their respective MPs to get the seats they are vying for.

As Ciotti explained, "the candidates ready to accept this solution would not have to run against rivals from (Le Pen's) party". Consequently, the moderate right-wing candidates will receive the votes of the RN voters.

Les Republicains to fracture?

The announcement seems to have fractured the LR so far, with high-profile current and former members slamming Ciotti's words.

Former LR member, interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, said Ciotti “signed the Munich agreement”, or the 1938 peace deal between Nazi Germany, France and others.

“He is plunging the Gaullist family into dishonour by embracing Marine Le Pen,” Darmanin stated in a post on X.

President of the Regional Council of Hauts-de-France, Xavier Bertrand, also spoke out against Ciotti's decision.

"As far as I’m concerned, it is clear: never the National Rally. Not today, not tomorrow, not the day after," he said on X Tuesday.

The strongly-worded denouncements mean that LR veterans close to the traditional party establishment and the legacy of its once-leader Jacques Chirac will be mostly reluctant to join the alliance with Le Pen.

However, the younger candidates might be more open to creating a right-wing coalition, especially after Sunday's European election results.

The LR has its historical roots in General Charles de Gaulle's conservative anti-fascist resistance against the German invasion during World War II. The party and its predecessors, such as Chirac's UMP, have been in power in France for significant parts of its modern history.

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