French Conservatives in shambles after shock alliance proposal

Eric Ciotti @ECiotti
Eric Ciotti, leader of the centre-right Republicans, supports an alliance with the far-right party National Rally.

The French centre-right party Republicans party (LR) is in turmoil after its leader Eric Ciotti spoke publicly about a possible alliance with far-right party National Rally (RN) ahead of the snap elections called by President Emmanuel Macron after the European elections.

Ciotti on Tuesday told TF1 TV that “we [LR and RN] say the same things so let’s stop making up imagined opposition,” adding that “this is what the vast majority of our voters want.”

His comments sent shock-waves in the part and through France. LR is the hair of Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac’s parties and was always against any alliance with RN, as part of the broader French cordon sanitaire on RN and its predecessor Front Nationale, both helmed by Marine Le Pen.

According to French daily Libération, it seemed that Ciotti took the decision on his own, without informing the rest of the party. An unnamed senator from the party told the newspaper that Ciotti “is scared of being defeated, him and other MPs, in the Alpes-Maritime [French department where Ciotti is from].”

The majority of the party seemed against the idea. Several high-profile politicians from LR signed a collective editorial to conservative daily Le Figaro to complain about Ciotti’s decision, saying that it doesn’t represent the party line. Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hautes-de-France region called him a “traitor” and called for his expulsion from the party. Also, Olivier Marleix, LR’s chief in the lower house demanded Ciotti’s resignation.

Even opponents of LR were critical of Ciotti. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, from Macron’s party Renaissance said that the deal reminded him of the 1938 Munich agreement between France, Great Britain and Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile, RN’s president Jordan Bardella opened up towards Ciotti’s offer, saying to France 2 television that they will support MPs candidates from the Republicans. RN is ahead in the polls for the elections, but it may fall short of achieving the absolute majority it needs to govern. Polls project RN to win between 235 and 265 seats in the National Assembly. They will need 289 to govern but may have trouble finding allies. On Tuesday Eric Zemmour and Marion Marechal’s far-right party, Reconquête, failed to make an election deal with RN. The Republican party is projected for 40 to 55 seats and may help Le Pen to reach the majority.

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