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Eric Ciotti elected president of LR: a narrow victory, and many challenges

Everything is lost on the right. The narrow victory of Eric Ciotti as President of the Republicans (LR) contrasts with the culture of the Gaullist party, more accustomed to Roman triumphs than to tight ballots. With 53.7% of the vote, the deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes dominated this Sunday, December 11 the senator LR Bruno Retailleau (46.3%). A “clear and not humiliating score” summed up the ex-president of LR Annie Genevard.

Asked about TF1, Eric Ciotti affirmed his desire to “bring together” his family, citing his opponents Bruno Retailleau and Aurélien Pradié. His unfortunate rival does not say anything else. During a statement at the headquarters of the Republicans, Bruno Retailleau described the party’s rally as “imperatively necessary”. “Any division will be very expensive for us (…) It is up to Eric to work on this unit. I am ready for it.” The promise will not be easy to keep. The competition between the two men has left traces, which are all challenges for the new president of LR.

The divergent reading of the results sums up this tension. The Ciotti camp hails a “clear and clean” victory, devoid of any ambiguity. “He was able to bring together and amplify the dynamics of the first round”, greets MEP Geoffroy Didier, close to the southerner. At Bruno Retailleau, we laugh at a narrow victory. Didn’t Eric Ciotti dream of a success in the first round this summer? In his speech, Bruno Retailleau welcomed an “unexpected” score and warned: “It’s a vote that will count.” “Ciotti won with a difference corresponding to the number of cards recorded in October in the Alpes-Maritimes”, mocks a close friend of the Vendéen.

“In fairness, we could win”

A way of minimizing the success of the southerner in a territorial ballot where the card machine has still played full. The Alpes-Maritimes federation represented 10% of the electorate. Bruno Retailleau’s entourage does not hide its bitterness towards Eric Ciotti, accused of having flirted with the yellow line to get activists to join, as shown by an investigation by Release. “In fairness, we could win,” slipped a lieutenant of the senator on Friday. Several supporters of Eric Ciotti thus confided in fearing an appeal from Bruno Retailleau’s team in the event of an ultra tight result. The small advance of the deputy reassures them. “At more than 53%, we leave the swampy zone”, slips a close friend of Eric Ciotti.

For the new LR president, the hardest part begins. The member will have to bring together a party threatened with extinction. This requirement is twofold. Eric Ciotti cleaves internally. His critics have not forgotten his glances at Eric Zemmour during the presidential election and his references to the theory of the great replacement. It was precisely the fears of an explosion of the party that had pushed Bruno Retailleau this summer to embark on the race. Clever, the man led a smooth campaign – “a denial” his detractors mock – to avoid any schism.

Internal fractures

But the competition has created new fractures. The Retailleau-Ciotti match turned into a deputies-senators war. Tensions grew between the two chambers during the campaign, such as when Eric Ciotti criticized the National Assembly for its vote on the ENR law. President Ciotti will have to renew the dialogue between these elected officials with such different methods.

At the end of the campaign, a baroque coalition was formed against Bruno Retailleau. Chiraquians and Sarkozyists joined forces to beat the Vendéen, ex-close to Philippe de Villiers. “The deep party was against us, grumbled an adviser. In 2021, there was an ‘Everything but Ciotti’ for ideological reasons. This year there was an ‘Everything but Retailleau’ for clan reasons. ” No ideological divide between the two men. But the competition revealed distinct political cultures, which Eric Ciotti will have to bring together.

The new LR president will have to quickly set this gathering to music. He will unveil a work program over the next few months. On the menu: the composition of the new management team and the formation of a counter-government. “We will have to compose a balanced team in which everyone will have a place, anticipates the former president of LR Annie Genevard. No one should feel left out.”

2027 in everyone’s mind

Gathering is good. Getting out of the phone booth is better. Unity is only a prerequisite for a greater challenge. Eric Ciotti will have to put his party back to work for the next elections. LR goes a long way. The right recited its traditional catechism during the campaign, without revealing any new ideas. Bruno Retailleau has made this ideological refoundation the heart of his campaign. Eric Ciotti did not sweep it away, but gave priority to the designation of the next right-wing presidential candidate: Laurent Wauquiez, with whom he forms an unofficial tandem.

The boss of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region can observe the result of the internal ballot with ambivalence. With the victory of Eric Ciotti, the former minister is certainly the favorite for the LR presidential nomination. But this short success is not insignificant. LR did not throw himself into the arms of his former boss, who had nevertheless become an argument for the vote. “The springboard that Wauquiez wanted to make with this election is all flat”, underlines a close friend of Bruno Retailleau. Xavier Bertrand thinks so too. The boss of Hauts-de-France, with presidential ambitions intact, judges that the pro or anti Wauquiez referendum was not a great success for the person concerned. On the right, the war of leaders is not dead. Not all habits are lost.

Source : BBN NEWS

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