LR and the legislative elections: an underground campaign for "be useful in the face of the useless"

Aurane Reihanian is 29 years old. This young elected representative from Bourg-en-Bresse will wear the colors of the Republicans (LR) in the legislative elections in Ain in June. On his campaign poster, the lawyer poses alongside Laurent Wauquiez, LR president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. In Normandy, Hervé Morin, regional president and patron of the Centrists, authorizes all right-wing and center candidates to use his image on their leaflets. All are gathered under the banner “Normandie Conquérante”, as during the last regional.

Candidate in Pas-de-Calais, Faustine Maliar takes care to recall, photo in support, that she enjoys the support of the president of the Hauts-de-France region Xavier Bertrand. No need for a magnifying glass to find the LR logo on its poster. He is simply absent. Like so many other suitors, she does not flaunt her partisan affiliation. “The tag vote will be very low for us,” admits an LR executive. “Many of the candidates are not representatives of a party but of great local barons appreciated by the population”, adds an adviser.

Such is the life of a ragged right. LR is conducting a decentralized legislative campaign, against its competitors. The united left promises to bring Jean-Luc Mélenchon to Matignon, Marine Le Pen is fully committed to the battle while Renaissance (ex-LREM) sets itself the objective of offering a parliamentary majority to Emmanuel Macron. LR does not nationalize this election. It is counting on the territorial anchoring of these candidates to save the day.

Necessity is law. The right was crushed in the first round of the presidential election. She never knew how to demonstrate her raison d’être during the campaign. Valérie Pécresse has deserted the national scene and returns to her regional affairs. “There is no incarnation”, sums up an LR mayor of a big city. The boss of LR Christian Jacob leads the battle of the legislative elections before leaving the presidency of the party, but does not seek a mandate as a deputy. This man of compromise has maintained the unity of his party since 2019 more than he has printed an identified political line.

Xavier Bertrand and Laurent Wauquiez were certainly called to the rescue for the electoral fight. The two pillars of LR move to support candidates in search of support. But the ideological differences between the two men illustrate the absence of a clear message to the French. More than two ex-ministers, it is two major local elected officials who are participating in the campaign. In the absence of a strong national offer, the LR candidates have as their only weapon their local presence and their personal image. “I am campaigning locally on myself and it is going very well”, confides the deputy of Vaucluse Julien Aubert.

In politics as in sport, it is always better to focus on your strengths. The right has an important network of elected officials, its candidates have mostly held local offices before being invested in the legislative elections. “We can play this local card because many LREM leavers are burnes and have not done the job. Some had their employees hold their permanence,” says a baron. Less established in the territories, the RN and LFI, on the other hand, have every interest in nationalizing the ballot.

The MP for Pas-de-Calais Pierre-Henri Dumont assumes this strategy. In his eyes, it sticks to the essence of the parliamentary mandate. “Constitutionally, we are elected by the nation. But in fact, we are also elected by the territories, because of the majority voting system. And there are no parachutists in our country.”

This choice is not without impact. The right is preparing to wage an underground campaign, far from the media spotlight. This “location” above all highlights the limited ambitions of LR: to limit damage. “It’s a defensive strategy which aims to save what can be saved”, analyzes an LR executive. In this case, the seats of 80 outgoing deputies who are candidates for re-election. The task promises to be delicate for the “incoming” devoid of strong anchoring in their constituency. They cannot be towed by a national locomotive and risk experiencing a fate similar to that of Valérie Pécresse. “We risk having very disparate results depending on the territory, anticipates a deputy. Some will make 30 or 35% in the first round, others will make 3%.” “We are in the abandonment of politics”, mocks an adviser.

Politics exactly. The management of LR is nevertheless trying to breathe some into the campaign. Christian Jacob recalls that the right will be “independent of macronism” during the next five-year term. As after each presidential election, we insist on the importance of opposing counter-powers to the elected president. Classic. What opposition formation would not share this desire? “We must be useful in the face of the useless, judges MEP Brice Hortefeux. The anti-systematics, like the RN and LFI, or the systematic pros of the presidential swamp.” These arguments outline a method of opposition or a positioning of the right on the political spectrum. But the ideological refoundation of the heir of the UMP will wait for the parliamentary obstacle. The right is not in conquest, it just wants the last wave of the tsunami not to be fatal to it.

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