The first round of the French regional elections defeated and deflated many of the country’s politicians. But not Xavier Bertrand, who was in the mood this week as he gathered his supporters in the windy suburbs of Dunkirk.
The politician won so many votes in the northern district of Haute-de-France, which increases his support for the center-right candidate in the fight against President Emanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in next year’s presidential election. competition for which he has already announced himself.
Le Pen’s far-right national team, on the other hand, did worse than expected last weekend. :
Bertrand is the current head of the industrial region, which includes Lille and Calais Amiens, a position he held six years ago with the help of left-wing parties after he defeated Le Pen in the first round. This time he neatly changed the results of the first round, winning 41% of the vote against 24% of RN.
“We managed to push back the National Front,” he told the Financial Times on Monday evening after meeting with other mayors and other supporters in rainy Tethys near Dunkirk. “I know I have a special responsibility to force them to retreat, to weaken their jaws, to break the jaws of the Front National.”
Looking at the Elysee Palace in 2022, Bertrand, 56, is determined to dispel the notion that Macron is the best bulwark against Le Pen. He also wants to counter pollsters’ predictions that the presidential election is likely to end in the second round of the same Macron-Le Pen election, which Macron eventually won in 2017.
Like many far-right opponents, he calls on the anti-immigration party to use the old, more evil “National Front” given by its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and not to use the “National Rally” as it was transformed by his daughter. Marine, who tried to transform an organization with a reputation for racism and anti-Semitism.
“There is no ‘new look’ in France, Front National. “They are exactly the same,” Bertrand said. “I know they are weak in economic matters. Lying, slander և deception. These are the methods of the extreme right. ”
However, even a convincing victory this Sunday will not guarantee Bertrand an easy path to the French presidential election.
Bertrand has government experience as a former health minister, a labor minister, as he was the mayor of St. Quentin, and chairing one of the regional councils, whose primary responsibility lies with transport policy rather than national or law-abiding national issues.
However, he is already facing tough opposition from other ambitious politicians in his own center-right party, Les Républicains, which he has so far technically abandoned because he wanted to start his Elysee’s bid without a run-off election.
Among those rivals is Valerie Pécres, who also left the LR to pursue his ambitions: Laurent Vauquiz, each likely to win again on Sunday in their respective provinces in the և southeast of ևle-de-France. ,
Bertrand, said Christel Lagier, a professor of political science at the University of Avignon, “strengthened his position, his legitimacy” after the first round. “But the competition for Les Républicains will be very, very tough. “I expect his political family to put on a lot of banana skins.” They will not give it. ”
Vincent Martin, a professor of politics at the University of Nice, agreed that Bertrand had strengthened his position, but stressed the impending struggle between potential center-right presidential candidates.
“The problem is that one thing has not been settled. “How to organize primary elections between different leaders who are anti-religious on the right,” he said.
“There is a possibility that Pekres և Vacuուs will do well in next Sunday’s election, և they, among others, will also want to be candidates. We have to ask how the leader of the right will be appointed. “
At the same time, Macron is campaigning: will he hardly give up his candidacy to be re-elected as Jacques Chirac, France’s first re-elected president since 2002?
Politically, Macron և Bertrand are very close, especially since Macron, who previously advocated “neither right nor left”, has moved to the right over the past two years, putting pressure on Islamists, emphasizing order and announcing immigration restrictions. The two men also advocated industrial investment in northern France, especially for batteries used in electric transport, to reduce dependence on Asia.
Analysts say that although Macron was weakened only by the poor performance of his party, which was founded in 2016, it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions from the results of such a low turnout in the regional elections. Only one-third of voters, less than one-fifth under the age of 35, were concerned about voting.
“It is not clear that this is detrimental to Macron, given that the presidential election is a national event, very focused on the candidates,” said Lagier.
This is one of the reasons why Bertrand, a tidy and combative man, presents himself as a man who puts his feet on the ground in the provinces, indirectly comparing himself to the hyper-intellectual Macron. “I bring a lot of intelligence,” he said.