The first round of the French regional elections failed and discouraged many politicians in the country. But Xavier Bertrand (Xavier Bertrand) is not, this week he was emotional when rallying supporters in the windy suburbs of Dunkirk.

The politician won such a high number of votes in the northwest of Upper France, which increased his chances of becoming the main center-right candidate in the presidential election next year against Emmanuel Macron and Marina Le Pen. . He has announced his participation in the game.

In contrast, the performance of Le Pen’s far-right National Assembly last weekend was worse than expected, while Macron’s Marche Republican Party performed so badly that it even failed to compete in four of the 13 regions of France’s European territories. Qualified for the second round of voting this Sunday.

Bertrand is the current leader of industrialized regions including Lille, Calais and Amiens. He won this position with the help of the left-wing party after being severely defeated by Le Pen in the first round six years ago. This time he cleverly reversed the score in the first round, winning 41% of the vote share, while RN’s vote share was 24%.

RN leader Marina Le Pen (right) distributes election leaflets during a visit to the Liusi Island in southern France © Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

“We successfully repelled the National Front,” he told the Financial Times after meeting with the local mayor and other supporters in the rainy Tetheim near Dunkirk on Monday night. “I know I have a special responsibility to make them retreat, loosen their jaws, and crush the jaws of the National Front.”

The 56-year-old Bertrand looks at the Elysee Palace in 2022 and is determined to overthrow the idea that Macron is the best fortress against Le Pen. He also wants to refute the opinion polling agency’s prediction that the presidential election may end in the same Macron-Le Pen runoff that Macron eventually won in 2017.

Like many far-right opponents, he called the anti-immigration party by the old and insidious “National Front” name given to the anti-immigration party by its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, instead of using The “National Assembly” Marine Corps, rebaptized by his daughter, tried to reshape an organization known for racism and anti-Semitism.

“France does not have a’new look’ National Front. They are exactly the same,” Bertrand said. “I know they are powerless on economic issues. Lies, slanders, and deception-these are the methods of the extreme right.”

However, even with a convincing victory this Sunday, there is no guarantee that Bertrand will easily lead to the French presidency.

Bertrand has served as the Minister of National Health and Minister of Labor, and has served as the mayor of San Quentin and one of the district committees. His main responsibility is transportation policy, not the annoying national health or law and order. problem.

However, he has faced strong opposition from other ambitious politicians in his own Les Républicains centre-right party-technically, he temporarily abandoned this party because he wanted to start without passing the primary election Run for the Elysee Palace.

These competitors include Valérie Pécresse and Laurent Wauquiez, who also withdrew from LR to pursue her ambitions. Everyone may be near Paris again on Sunday. Île-de-France and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the southeast won.

Kristel Lagil, assistant professor of political science at the University of Avignon, said Bertrand “strengthened his status and legitimacy” after the first round. “But the competition between Les Républicains will be very, very fierce… I hope his political family can lay down a lot of banana peels. They will not give up.”

Vincent Martigny, a professor of political science at the University of Nice, agreed that Bertrand had consolidated his position, but emphasized the upcoming struggle between potential center-right presidential candidates.

“The problem is that one thing has not been resolved-how to organize a primary election among the different leaders of the right-wing anti-Macron,” he said.

“Pécresse and Wauquiez may perform well in the election next Sunday, and they may also want to be candidates, etc. People have to ask how to appoint a right-wing leader.”

At the same time, Macron is already in the campaign and is unlikely to abandon his campaign to become the first French president since Jacques Chirac in 2002.

Emmanuel Macron greeted voters at the polling station in Le Touquet on Sunday

Emmanuel Macron greeted voters at the polling station in the coastal town of Le Touquet on Sunday © Christian Hartmann/POOL/AFP/Getty

In terms of policy, Macron and Bertrand are very close, especially because Macron, who has campaigned as “Neither Right nor Left” in the past two years, has turned to the right, cracked down on Islamists, emphasized law and order, and announced restrictions on immigration. . The two also support industrial investment in northern France, especially batteries used in electric vehicles, to reduce dependence on Asia.

Analysts said that although Macron was weakened by the poor performance of the party he founded in 2016 on Sunday, it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions from regional election results with such low turnout. Only one-third of voters — less than one-fifth of voters under 35 — are willing to vote.

Laguire said: “Given that the presidential election is a national event and the individuality of the candidates is very important, it is not clear whether it will be harmful to Macron.”

This is one reason why Bertrand is strong and aggressive. He portrays himself as a down-to-earth person in the province, implicitly compared with the super-wise Macron. “I brought a lot of common sense,” he said.

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