French conservative leadership election signals move towards far right
16 December 2017
The victory of Laurent Wauquiez to become president of The Republicans (LR), after the humiliating defeat of LR presidential candidate François Fillon in May, signals a move by the descendants of Gaullism towards the far right. With 75 percent of the vote, the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region overwhelmingly defeated Florence Portelli (16 percent) and Maël de Calan (9 percent). Of LR’s paper membership of 234,566, some 99,597 voted in the December 10 contest, a 42 percent voter turnout, which was higher than expected.
Wauquiez represents the wing of the party that seeks to continue former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s strategy of taking over most of the neo-fascist National Front’s (FN) program. His supporters include Geoffroy Didier, the cofounder of the Strong Right tendency inside the Gaullist party founded by former members of the far right, and also Guillaume Peltier, a former FN member.
During the campaign, Wauquiez called for a “fearless right” attacking Muslims and immigrants, insisting that foreign funding for mosques had no place in France. He also appealed to the anti-gay-marriage movement and criticized medically assisted reproduction.
Xavier Bertrand, the LR president of the Hauts-de-France region of northern France, reacted on December 11 by leaving LR. “This is not an easy decision but I must take it,” he said on France2 television, before explaining his differences with Wauquiez: “I don’t like his policy of aggressiveness and looking for scapegoats.”
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the head of the far-right nationalist Arise France (DLF) party that proposes a common program for LR and the FN, wrote on Twitter: “In the coming…