A few veiled spades, nuances on pensions and unanimity on immigration: Three Republican presidential candidates were aiming to score points this Monday night during their only televised debate. For an hour and a half at the LCI, Eric Chotti, Aurélien Prady and Bruno Retaio defended their vision of the right-wing party, which fell to 4.8% in the last presidential election.
In this contest, Eric Ciotti, considered the favorite, played his usual card of toughness, defending a right “which no longer apologizes for being itself” in a country “perilously on its way to decline”. “I want unity along a clear line,” Senators boss L.R. Bruno Retaio, who advocated an “assembly” of the right, “proud of its values, with a clear line towards the sovereign and the economy”. The contender for this competition, Aurélien Pradier, made the renewal argument himself, praising his experience as a “mayor, volunteer firefighter” in the service of a “people’s right” that “is not a punishment.”
There are no discrepancies regarding the role of LR. “There can be no question of being Marine le Pen’s crutch or Emmanuel Macron’s springboard,” summed up Bruno Retaio. And in this often technical debate, twelve days before the first round, each at first maintained his attacks during the long development of the sovereign and pensions.
On the ocean viking “Italy 1-France 0”
Everyone championed a very strong vision of immigration, going back to the episode of the Ocean Viking, a humanitarian ship that landed in Toulon with 234 migrants on board. “It’s Italy 1-France 0”, assessed Eric Ciotti, who scored: “No rights for illegal immigrants, no housing, no benefits, no school.”
Bruno Retaio denounced “immigration-seeking pumps” and tackled the government’s “mass regularization” project with a law expected in early 2023. As for Aurélien Pradier, he suggested “that we make the crime of smuggling fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC” – the International Criminal Court – and “halve the amount of immigration”.
On pensions, the positions were more mixed: faced with Bruno Retaio’s call for a delay in coming of age, Aurélien Pradier defended a “just reform” according to which “those who start early work finish early”. Eric Ciotti found himself in a position of synthesis, defending “a few a la carte systems.” And “if it saves today’s and tomorrow’s pensioners, I will vote” for the law presented by the executive branch, he assured.
But the debate was punctuated by veiled peaks as Eric Ciotti asked: “Is values a bad word, Aurélien Prady? before he starts “Eric, you’ll make a great general secretary.”
Bruno Retaio, who wants to be a candidate at a rally with many elected supporters, found himself isolated on renewables after a vote in the Senate that passed the government bill by an overwhelming first reading.
“I think the brand is dead”
In including abortion in the Constitution, he also noted his unusualness: “This is a debate that the far left imports from the United States,” he said. “Veil law is French”, replied Aurelien Pradier, while Eric Chotti believed that “the law should not be old-fashioned, it should be in harmony with society”.
As for the future of the party, everyone played their part, with some criticism of Nicolas Sarkozy. “We will have to change the name, I think the brand is dead,” said Bruno Retaio. “In 2027 we will see whether we are dead or not, today we are still moving,” said Eric Ciotti. But “what’s missing is a leader,” added one who is pleading for the quick nomination of Laurent Vauquies as the 2027 presidential candidate.
“It’s crazy to nominate our candidate next year,” Aurélien Pradier said. “If we run into the Europeans, we will electrocute him,” Bruno Retaio abounded. “If we don’t have any more juice, he won’t risk anything. At some point, you have to take responsibility,” said Eric Ciotti.