French Republicans Lurch Right with Wauquiez

The new Republican party leader calls for a return to the “true values of the right”.

French Republican leader Laurent Wauquiez attends a memorial ceremony in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, November 9
French Republican leader Laurent Wauquiez attends a memorial ceremony in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, November 9 (Facebook)

Republicans in France are likely to take a harder line against President Emmanuel Macron under the leadership of Laurent Wauquiez.

An education minister in the last conservative government, Wauquiez prevailed in an internal leadership ballot on Sunday with almost 75 percent of the votes.

He has ruled out alliances with both Macron’s centrists and the far-right National Front.

But he argues the party must take the fight to the latter by returning to what he sees as the “true values of the right”: order, respect and security.

Fear of the far right

Wauquiez is uncompromising about France’s Christian roots and secular traditions.

“France should not adapt to foreigners,” he says. “Foreigners should adapt to France.”

Republicans saw many social conservatives and nativist voters switch to the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, an immigration skeptic, when their candidate, François Fillon, failed to qualify for the presidential runoff in May.

Le Pen lost the second voting round to Macron with 34 to 66 percent support.

Wauquiez and his supporters nevertheless worry that defections to the far right could become permanent if they don’t distance themselves from the proudly globalist Macron.

Their critics fear that “porosity” to Le Pen’s party could make Republicans unelectable nationwide.

Co-opted by Macron

Macron has co-opted center-right economic issues and appointed prominent Republicans, including Édouard Philippe and Bruno Le Maire, to his cabinet.

Republican supporters of the president have split and formed a new party, called Agir (Act).

The Financial Times argues that family values, identity politics and immigration — classic National Front themes — are now the only areas where Republicans can lay down policies distinct from Macron’s.