immigration, pensions, future of the party… What to remember from the debate between Eric Ciotti, Bruno Retailleau and Aurélien Praidé

The presidential candidates of the Les Républicains (LR) party, from left to right Eric Ciotti, Bruno Retailleau and Aurélien Pradié, pose on the TV set before the debate organized by the LCI channel on November 21, 2022.

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 Republicans (LR), The three contenders for the party presidency – 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.

One year later the nomination of their 2022 presidential candidate, the some 91,000 members of the right-wing party are in fact called to the electronic ballot boxes to choose a leader, on the weekends of 3-4 and 10-11 December. 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 Estate of Christian Jacob thus attempted 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.

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Divergences of styles on the question of immigration

Sitting side by side, the three contenders first 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 line of rupture 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 the 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 “Mrs. Meloni”.

Read also: Eric Ciotti, Bruno Retailleau, Aurélien Pradié, three lines compete for the presidency of the Republicans

Bruno Retailleau, who also virulently castigated the government’s migration policy, took advantage of this sequence to opportunely address the subject of Charles de Fournas, the RN deputy sanctioned for having made racist remarks in the Hemicycle, in a barely concealed blow to Mr. Ciotti, who quickly condemned the remarks of the far-right elected official. ” I have never fallen into the trap of moral lessons from the left., “This is also why when there was this Fournas affair in the National Assembly, I did not consider it racist to want to return illegal immigrants to their homes”, he launched.

On secularism, Eric Ciotti and Bruno Retailleau for their part rebounded on an exit from Aurélie Pradié, concerning the wearing of the compulsory uniform at school and for which he for the first time affirmed to be favorable to the university. , in an attempt to discredit their young adversary.

Fundamental disagreements on pensions and abortion

The three contenders for the presidency of LR were also unable to hide their fundamental disagreements on the question of pensions. When Mr. Retailleau defended the reform voted by the senatorial right in favor of a postponement to 64 and the extension of the contribution period, Aurélien Pradié, who said he was “concerned with embodying[r] popular right” called for reform “based on annuities”. The deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes defended him a line of “synthesis” between the two. But when the young deputy from Lot said that the pension reform was a red line for him, MM. Ciotti and Retailleau admitted that if she met the aspirations of the right, they could vote for her.

About the inclusion of abortion in the Constitutiononly the senator, from Vendée known for his conservative positions on social issues, spoke out against it, criticizing an idea “imported by the extreme left from the United States”. He was thus put in difficulty by his opponents, like Eric Ciotti who pleaded for the Republican right to be “in tune with society”, in a spade addressed to his opponent.

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,” argued Aurélien Pradié, while Mr. Retailleau assured that the right should defend a ” clear line on the sovereign and the economy”. Eric Ciotti promised to rebuild his political family by setting the goal for the right to win the presidential election of 2027, through the candidacy of Laurent Wauquiez. All also recalled their line of rupture with Nicolas Sarkozy.

the survey relayed by Mr. Retailleau and the subject of cumulation of jobs by the ex-wife of Eric Ciotti however, were not addressed. The three candidates must now meet on Saturday before the national council of the party for a last great oral before the congress.

Read also: Before the Republican Congress, Eric Ciotti protests against the distribution of a consultation of members by the Retailleau camp

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