Since the resignation of Christian Jacob, the position of president of the Les Républicains party—the main formation of the French governmental right—has been vacant.
The president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez (who has already held this position), was the favourite for the post but he announced on July 17th that he preferred to give it up—the better to concentrate on a possible presidential run in 2027, which he hopes will be free of the traditional parties.
Éric Ciotti, Valérie Pécresse’s main rival in the 2022 presidential primary, is about to be the first to enter the race. During the designation process, when the candidate for the Right and Centre was being selected, Ciotti really created a surprise by arriving in 1st position, with 25.59% of the votes. That number placed him just ahead of Valérie Pécresse with 25%, and largely ahead of personalities much more known and historically better anchored in the national political landscape, such as the former ministers Michel Barnier and Xavier Bertrand. Ciotti was unfortunately defeated during the second round.
Ciotti distinguished himself during the primary campaign by taking positions clearly on the Right, in contrast to the very centrist positioning of the finalist Valérie Pécresse. At the time, he said that between Éric Zemmour and Emmanuel Macron, he undoubtedly preferred Éric Zemmour, which shocked the caciques of the LR party who are very attached to centrism. In June, he was elected as an MP for the department of Alpes Maritimes in Provence. Today, at the National Assembly where he holds the official position of quaestor, the relations of Ciotti with the deputies of the Rassemblement national are very good.
In an interview published in the Journal du dimanche on July 24th, Éric Ciotti said that his final decision was “not completely made,” but that he was “ready to take up the challenge” and “very determined.” Éric Ciotti said he understands and respects the decision of Laurent Wauquiez, whose strategy for 2027 he understands quite well. “Laurent Wauquiez is the one who has the best assets to hope for victory in 2027,” he told the Journal du dimanche.
Two days were enough for him to make up his mind. On Tuesday, July 26th, he officially declared in a local newspaper from his constituency, Nice-Matin, that he was a candidate and that he was working at “building a rallying team.”
For the moment, no other candidate has officially declared but him. But several names are circulating for the post, such as Aurélien Pradié (currently number two in the party), the MEP François-Xavier Bellamy, and Michel Barnier, the unsuccessful candidate in the primary and former European Commissioner. These potential competitors of Ciotti embody very different lines. Michel Barnier and Aurélien Pradié are clearly on the centre-right, while François-Xavier Bellamy embodies the conservative option.
The first round of elections for the presidency of Les Républicains will take place electronically on December 3rd and 4th. If necessary, the second round will be held on December 10th and 11th.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).