France’s centre-right party leader steps down after poor EU election results

File photo. French Laurent Wauquiez of Les Republicains (The Republicans) party speaks to the media after a meeting with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (not pictured) at Matignon in Paris, France, 03 December 2018. This meeting takes place two days after violent clashes during the 'Yellow Vests' demonstration. [Etienne Laurent/EPA/EFE]

The leader of France’s centre-right opposition Les Républicains political party Laurent Wauquiez said on Sunday (2 June) he will quit as the party’s president after it recorded its lowest score ever in last week’s European parliament elections.

The dismal showings of the former ruling party and the mainstream Socialist Party in the election shows that both parties have failed to recover from President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 election victory.

Their woes paves the way for another potential head-to-head match between Macron and far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen in the 2022 presidential election.

Les Républicains scored 8.48% in the May 26 EU elections, coming in fourth behind the National Rally, Macron’s ruling LREM and the Greens.

“Victories are collective, defeats are solitary. That is the way it is. I have to take my responsibilities,” Wauquiez said on TF1 television.

“My decision tonight is a thoughtful decision, I have decided to take a step back, I’m stepping down as President of Les Républicains,” he said.

Les Républicains, founded by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been mired in internal leadership infighting since Sarkozy lost the 2012 presidential election.

“During the past week, I did everything to try to meet those of good will. But I see, (…) that there is a risk of a return of leadership wars and desires of revenge. I do not want to be an obstacle at any price,” Wauquiez said.

“I think the right has to rebuild. I do not want democracy to become the choice between Macron and Marine Le Pen. The right has to be rebuilt,” he added.

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