FIGAROVOX / TRIBUNE – Saturday, September 25, the activists The Republicans voted in favor of a congress to the detriment of a primary to nominate their candidate. According to Maxime Tandonnet, these considerations on the voting system are a secondary ingredient in the recipe for success.
A keen observer of French political life and regular contributor to FigaroVox, Maxime Tandonnet has notably published André Tardieu. The misunderstood (Perrin, 2019).
By vote of the 58% members, the Republicans (LR) movement chose to nominate its presidential candidate at a Congress to be held in December, that is to say as part of an election to two tours reserved for these same members. This choice buries the solution of primaries aimed at a wider audience. The arguments for or against a closed congress or a “semi-open” primary have been rehashed a thousand times. The primary has the advantage of reaching a wider audience and therefore can boast an advantage in terms of democratic openness. On the other hand, it mediates the rivalries and the disagreements between the candidates of the same movement and consequently, revives the traditional and deadly “war of the chiefs”, emblematic of the failures of the right since the Giscard d’Estaing-Chirac battle of 1981 .
The choice of the mode of selection of the candidate – congress or primary – constitutes a subject of interest for the militants, but does not fascinate – or marginally – the deep country.
Today, wisdom seems to prevail: the war ofego, which in any case would have destroyed the chances of victory, did not take place … But the choice of Congress does not entirely remove the confusion in which the right is floundering. The two favorite candidates, Mr. Xavier Bertrand and Ms. Valérie Pécresse have resigned from the party. How then can they, with any chance of success, gain the support of a movement of which they are no longer members? Six months before the presidential election, polls carried out among the potential right-wing electorate point out that Mr. Bertrand would be the only one deemed able to win the presidential election against President Macron. What would happen if the internal vote resulted in the nomination of another candidate, preferred by members because of his loyalty to the party, such as Michel Barnier, but who, by then, would not have succeeded in giving signs of its ability to influence opinion?
In fact, the three favorites of the congress resulting from the large poll, Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pécresse and Michel Barnier traditionally position themselves on a rather centrist line or even sometimes qualified as “macron-compatible”. The right wing of LR is no longer represented at the level of the favorites since the withdrawals of Laurent Wauquiez and Bruno Retailleau. This absence favors the breakthrough of Eric Zemmour. The latter may as well serve the interests of the right by having the effect of weakening Marine le Pen, as being fatal to her if it continues to erode its own reserves of votes. This is not the least of the paradoxes of the situation: the formula of the Internal Congress lends itself, in principle, to a choice of conviction, but in this case, the most right-wing offer is absent. Hence the outbidding of the three main candidates on immigration to seize the vacant space …
The right, which is in the strong majority in terms of the sensitivity of deep France as shown by its success in municipal elections in 2019 and regional elections in 2020, is it preparing for a new national failure after 2012 and 2017? In fact, the choice of the mode of selection of the candidate – congress or primary – constitutes a subject of interest for the militants, but does not fascinate – or marginally – the deep country. The success of the Mélenchon-Zemmour debate also underlines that public opinion prefers debates of ideas (even very excessive) to partisan cuisine …
Above all, the December 2021 congress must not have the effect of definitively freezing the situations because in such a fluid and uncertain context, all surprises can arise until the last moment.
The recipe for success in the presidential election lies in any case other than in the method of choosing a candidate. It is based on a phenomenon of media seduction. It proceeds from a strange alchemy that combines the telegenic appearance, the strength of one or two well-chosen slogans (like Nicolas Sarkozy’s “work more to earn more” in 2007) and a handful of measures emblematic (removal of the housing tax of Mr. Macron), an appearance of seriousness mixed with the credibility of a project. Success in the presidential election stems from an elusive and unpredictable mixture of convictions, affect and confidence in the candidates, the mood of public opinion and the chaos of the news.
Thus, the congress of December 2021 must above all not have the effect of definitively freezing the situations because in such a fluid and uncertain context, all the surprises can occur until the last moment – like the presidential elections of 2017. The key success will depend not only on the ability to embody a credible response to the country’s expectations (unemployment, environment, immigration, security, school, etc.) but also on the ability of the right, until the last moment, to adapt to circumstances.