French right-wing candidate Valérie Pécresse said on Friday (8 April) she will not tell voters who to pick in the second round of the presidential election should she fail to make it past the first one on Sunday (10 April) – a surprising move for a party that has always urged voters to block the far-right. EURACTIV France reports.
Pécresse is currently polling at 9% in fourth place, tied with far-right candidate Eric Zemmour and behind French President Emmanuel Macron, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and radical-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, respectively polling at 26%, 23% and 17%.
Pécresse said that she “will not give any voting instructions” in case of defeat in the first election round on broadcaster France Inter on Friday in response to a question from a caller.
“The French are free, they are the ones who vote”, said the conservative-right candidate, adding that they “do not want any instructions”.
A historical shift
This marks a first for Pécresse’s right-wing Les Républicains party which has always called on its voters to vote against the far-right contender in the second round.
What used to be called the ‘Republican Front’ seems to be crumbling, according to the analysis of a former right-wing politician, who wishes to remain anonymous, and who has held prominent positions in a major French city.
“I don’t understand how a democrat can refuse to ask for a vote against Le Pen,” she said.
According to the same source, a split is taking place within the traditional right, with “the republican right becoming more radical”. To explain the trend, the source pointed to Eric Ciotti who leans towards “the edge of the extreme right”. He was the final rival of Pécresse in the right-wing primary and is now the unofficial number two of the candidate’s campaign.
However, for some politicians within the Les Républicains “the red line has always been the extreme right and the rejection of foreigners”, the source added, citing Edouard Philippe, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Alain Juppé. The three political heavyweights ended up voicing support for Macron.
No call for votes
“Before the first round, we never talk about the second,” Les Républicains MEP Nadine Morano, who was a minister in the government of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, told EURACTIV.
“We have to fight to the end […] the only question that counts is victory,” she added.
“Voting instructions belong to another era,” Constance Le Grip, a member of parliament and loyal Pécresse supporter has said.
“We are not hiding behind our little finger,” she said, noting that there will not be any “compromises with the far-right”.
Pécresse then clarified her remarks on Twitter, writing: “I will say clearly what my vote will be and I will say the way I think is right for France.”
Following Pécresse’s radio interview, Le Pen welcomed a “change of jurisprudence at LR”, which she described as a “wise decision” by the right-wing candidate.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]