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What We're Watching: Who's running for president in France?

French president Emmanuel Macron

France’s right-leaning election. Valérie Pécresse, a minister in former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, won a primary on Saturday to lead France’s conservative Les Republicains party in next year’s presidential election. Pécresse is the first woman to head the party of Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac, and is hoping to reinvigorate a party that’s become mostly irrelevant in French politics as anti-establishment sentiment grips the electorate. But Pécresse – a mainstream conservative – has her work cut out for her in an election where far right firebrands Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour are holding their own in the polls. President Emmanuel Macron is still five points ahead of Le Pen, who is currently in second place, and would reap about a quarter of the vote if the April elections were held today. But Pécresse’s entry into the race could cause some trouble for Macron. He has tried to paint himself both as a political outsider and as a middle-of-the-road liberal but he is broadly seen as a wishy-washy ideological chameleon. Macron could now be forced to veer further to the right to attract voters who might resonate with Pécresse’s tough-on-immigration and pro-business agenda, particularly amid fears that the omicron variant could force Macron to re-impose unpopular lockdowns.


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