immigration, pensions, future of the party… What to remember from the debate between Eric Ciotti, Bruno Retailleau and Aurélien Pradié
In the home straight, everyone tried to make their difference. On the occasion of a unique televised debate organized by LCI, at the approach of the congress of the Republicans (LR), the three contenders for the presidency of the party – the senator of Vendée Bruno Retailleau, the deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes Eric Ciotti and that of Lot Aurélien Pradié – crossed swords for an hour and a half, Monday, November 21.
A year after the nomination of their 2022 presidential candidate, the 91,000 members of the right-wing party are called to the electronic ballot boxes to choose a leader, on the weekends of December 3-4 and 10-11. This election should allow LR to turn the page on a trying political sequence, marked by the heavy defeat of Valérie Pécresse last April (4.8%) and dissension threatening to crack it.
After more than a month of campaigning, the three candidates for the succession of Christian Jacob tried a balancing act on Monday: to scrap in all kindness, to avoid adding division to the uncertainty of the future of their political family. A line of crest that they held throughout their exchange, despite the expression of differences in styles and ideas.
Divergences of styles on the question of immigration
Sitting side by side, the three contenders defended their candidacy, by way of introduction. Favored by the draw, the boss of the right-wing senators, Bruno Retailleau, first presented his candidacy as that of the guarantee of unity for his political family and an incarnation of a “ right that assumes its convictions”.
His main opponent, the very right-handed Eric Ciotti, announced as the favorite of the militants, defended his own by arguing that “the time has come to dare the right” while country is down the road of decline. The youngest Aurélien Pradié closed the sequence by choosing instead to highlight what differentiates him from his challengers, assuming to wear a break line and “a new hope for the right.
In a meticulous discursive choreography, the latter then answered in turn questions from journalists on the war in Ukraine, the sovereign, the economy and the social, the ecology and the future of LR. They displayed the first differences of style from their exchange on immigration, even though they agree on a principle of firmness.
Asked about the reception of the humanitarian ship “Ocean Viking” by France, Aurélien Pradié, thus affirmed that in this kind of situation “the human emergency is to save the castaways”. Eric Ciotti strongly criticized the government’s decision in this case, saying that Emmanuel Macron “has been cowardly and helpless” contrary to “Ms. Meloni”.
Bruno Retailleau, who also castigated the government’s migration policy, took advantage of this sequence to talk about Grégoire de Fournas, the RN deputy sanctioned for having uttered racist remarks in the Hemicycle, in a barely masked blow to Mr. Ciotti , who condemned the remarks of the far-right elected official. ” Me, I never fell into the trap of moral lessons from the left (…), that’s also why when there was this Fournas affair in the National Assembly, I didn’t I didn’t consider it racist to want to make illegal immigrants return home”, he launched.
On secularism, Eric Ciotti and Bruno Retailleau, for their part, tried to discredit Aurélien Pradié who proposed the wearing of a compulsory uniform not only at school but up to university.
Fundamental disagreements on pensions and abortion
During the debate, the three contenders for the presidency of LR were also unable to hide their fundamental disagreements on the question of pensions. Mr. Retailleau defended the reform passed by the senatorial right in favor of postponing the retirement age to 64 and extending the contribution period. “Caring about embodying[r] the popular right, Aurélien Pradié spoke out for a reform “based on annuities”. As for the deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes, he defended a “synthesis” between the two. But when the deputy from Lot said that the pension reform would be a red line for him, MM. Ciotti and Retailleau admitted that they could vote for her if she met the aspirations of the right.
On the subject of the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution, only the Vendée senator, known for his conservative positions on social issues, criticized an idea “imported by the extreme left from the United States”. He was then put in difficulty by his adversaries, like Eric Ciotti who pleaded for the Republican right to be “in tune with society” and not turned to the past.
Asked at the end of the program about the future of LR, the three candidates finally judged that the political space continued to exist for their party between the macronie and the far right. “I want this party to become more modern, more popular,” declared Aurélien Pradié, while Mr. Retailleau assured that the right had to defend a “ clear line on the sovereign and the economy”. Eric Ciotti has promised to rebuild his political family by setting the goal for LR to win the presidential election of 2027, thanks to the candidacy of Laurent Wauquiez.
All also wanted to recall their assumed line of rupture with the Nicolas Sarkozy years. The survey relayed by Mr. Retailleau saying he was better placed with members than Mr. Ciotti and the subject of multiple jobs by the ex-wife of the deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes were not however addressed during the debate. The three candidates must now meet on Saturday before the national council of the party for a last great oral before the congress.