French conservative party chooses its first female presidential candidate to take on Macron

PARIS – Members of France’s conservative party Les Républicains have chosen the head of the Paris region Valérie Pécresse as their candidate in April’s presidential election.

The former minister got 61 percent of the vote in the party’s primary’s second round Saturday and has become the first female presidential candidate for Les Républicains.

As a pro-business moderate, Pécresse is believed to be more of a threat to Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election next year. She could appeal to center-right voters who have drifted away from Les Républicains.

A career politician, Pécresse served as budget minister and higher education minister under former president Nicolas Sarkozy. She is also head of the regional government in Île-de-France, which includes Paris, allowing her to claim first-hand executive experience, running a tight budget and confronting social problems in impoverished Parisian suburbs.

Pécresse has described herself as “1/3 Thatcher, 2/3 Merkel.” She has pledged to rise the retirement age to 65 and cut thousands of public sector jobs if she is elected president. She has also – like most candidates on the right – become more hardline on immigration, reflecting the influence of the far right on mainstream parties. She promises to “restore French pride” and defend “family values.”

Pécresse obtained the support of rivals who lost in the first round of the conservative primary. “I know what difficult fights are, I know I can win them, I am a woman who wins and achieves things,” she said on Thursday after the first-round results were announced.



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