French presidential elections 2022

Conservative Les Républicains forgo primary to choose candidate at party convention

France's conservative Les Républicains party decided Saturday that it would nominate its candidate for the May 2022 presidential election through a party convention on December 4 rather than a primary election – a move seen as beneficial to candidate Xavier Bertrand.

The entrance to the headquarters of the French conservative Les Republicains (LR) party on November 29, 2016.
The entrance to the headquarters of the French conservative Les Republicains (LR) party on November 29, 2016. © Bertrand Guay, AFP (file photo)

Party members voted by a majority of 58 percent to choose their candidate during two rounds of a party convention rather than hold primary elections.

“This is good news; it means that the issue will be resolved by December 4” and that the right will be “united behind one candidate”, party leader Christian Jacob said Saturday.

Several candidates have announced their intention to run for president for Les Républicains (LR) party. Currently leading in polls is Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France regional council, with 14-15 percent of voting intentions – not sufficient to get him into the second round of the presidential vote.

Bertrand had said he would refuse to participate in a primary election, but he might agree to a convention, Jacob said Wednesday. Officials close to Bertrand said he would examine the exact conditions of the convention before deciding. The party plans to convene a strategic council on Monday to begin organising the convention.

Bertrand is followed by two other candidates: Valérie Pécresse, president of the Ile-de-France regional council, and Michel Barnier, who served as head of the European UK Task Force.

Saturday's vote was about modifying a 2015 party statute that dictated that the LR party candidate would be nominated through a primary election open to all French citizens. That led to bitterness in 2016 over the elimination of Nicolas Sarkozy, which only worsened when the primary winner, François Fillon, failed to make it to the presidential election’s second round.

The party members decided this time to reserve the voting rights to LR members “who have paid their party dues by 15 days before the vote”, which would be held in two rounds.

Candidates will have to submit their intention to present their candidacy in writing, Jacob said.

“I'll be there! May the best candidate win!” Pécresse tweeted immediately, despite being a strong supporter of the primary.

And Barnier tweeted, “As a faithful activist of this family (...) I will confidently solicit its support."

Others contenders also reacted to the decision: “On December 4, I will seek the support of my political family," said Eric Ciotti. And Philippe Juvin announced he would present his candidacy “with honour and pride”.

December 4 might appear far off, with other parties already announcing their presidential candidates, but the LR party leader says it is not too late. “We’re advancing at the right pace,” Jacob said, because "it takes time to collect all the necessary signatures”.

Candidates will need to declare that they represent “the values of the right and centre” and to collect 250 sponsorship signatures from elected officials supported by the LR.

A monitoring authority will then check the admissibility of applications and their compatibility with the party’s values.

The LR party is also introducing a new procedure that will allow it to replace the candidate if he or she “cannot, for whatever reason”, stay in the race. This is in order to avoid a crash similar to that of Fillon, whose 2017 bid for presidency was torpedoed by a fake job scandal involving his wife that dealt a severe blow to his party.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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