Sarkozy calls to vote for Macron as the French right fractures

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (L) decided to endorse the outgoing President Emmanuel Macron (R) who is running for reelection on 24 April, and facing far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. [EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT]

The former right-wing president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has called on citizens to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election on 24 April, in contrast with the position of his former party.

His support for the outgoing president was expected as Macron faces the far-right camp led by Marine Le Pen, but it comes after the leadership of Les Republicans urged its supporters not to vote for Le Pen but stopped short of endorsing Macron.

Sarkozy, in power from 2007 to 2012, said he wanted to “respond to Emmanuel Macron’s call for a rally in view of the presidential election”, by seizing the hand extended by the outgoing president to “all those who want to work for France”.

Sarkozy also praised the qualities of Macron, who he said has the “necessary experience in the face of a serious international crisis […] his economic project puts the value of work at the centre of all his priorities […] his European commitment is clear and unambiguous”.

Sarkozy had previously refused to come out of his retirement to support the candidate of his camp, Valérie Pécresse, who had served as a minister in his administration.

A tackle against the right-wing party

The former president said it will be “necessary to get out of habits and partisan reflexes” and highlighted “the values of the republican right” and the “culture of government”, which he said should drive republican supporters to choose Macron.

In conclusion, he criticised the ambiguity of Les Republicains’ position, saying that “one is never mistaken in choosing clarity and constancy”.

Sarkozy, though officially retired from political life, had multiplied contacts with President Macron throughout the mandate and, in the last few months, with his entourage.

According to findings of the weekly Le Point, he had lunch with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who also hails from the right-wing party and is now a heavyweight of the Macronists, to negotiate the rallying of several dozen right-wing MPs for the parliamentary elections in June, with a view to creating a new majority.

The right divided

The right has been divided since Sunday’s first round between those who consider that supporting Macron is the natural path for the right and those who refuse to accept it.

The president of the Les Républicains group in the Senate Bruno Retailleau quickly replied that “Nicolas Sarkozy’s position is personal” and that “we will not rebuild the right by diluting ourselves in Macronism”.

Éric Ciotti, who had lost the race for the party’s lead candidate to Valérie Pécresse, announced on Sunday evening that he would not vote for Emmanuel Macron, without giving any further details.

This constituted an explicit break with the tradition of the Republican right, who had always explicitly called for the isolation of the far right and insisted on voting for whoever was their opponent.

Narrowing gap between Macron and Le Pen in French polls rouses concern

In the latest French presidential election polls, the gap between Emmanuel Macron and opponent Marine Le Pen is narrowing, despite optimism from the incumbent’s camp at a recent campaign meeting.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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