More than 70 conservative mayors and councillors pledged support for President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday in the latest sign that France’s centre-Right opposition party, The Republicans, is in danger of extinction.
Some 31 per cent of party supporters favour an alliance with Mr Macron’s LREM party, while 26 per cent would back an alliance with Marine Le Pen’s far-Right National Rally, according to a poll published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
Senior conservatives fear that Mr Macron is taking over the centre-Right while hard nationalists swing behind the National Rally following The Republicans’ drubbing in the European elections.
The party took just eight per cent of the vote — an even more humiliating defeat than that suffered by the UK Conservative Party.
Ms Le Pen’s niece, Marion Maréchal, is urging mainstream conservatives to join an alliance with the National Rally.
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In the latest sign that rank-and-file Republicans are defecting to Mr Macron, 72 Right-wing and centre-Right mayors and councillors from across France announced their support for the centrist president in a joint letter published in the Journal du Dimanche.
“We are among those who desire the all-important success of France, which is why we want the president of the [French] Republic and the government to succeed, as nothing will be built on their failure,” the letter said.
Noting that many French people “feel abandoned, alienated, left behind,” the letter added: “We refuse to let ourselves be reduced to a label, a voting instruction, a party apparatus. Our party is firstly our constituents, it is the Republic.”
The Republicans are desperately seeking a new leader. Laurent Wauquiez, the party’s former chief, resigned a week after the European elections.
Mr Macron has taken advantage of the party’s existential crisis to renew his charm offensive to gain conservative support.
He had already poached many senior Republicans, including his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, after his 2017 election victory.
They backed Mr Macron after the defeat of François Fillon, the conservative presidential candidate, which left Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron to go through to the second round of the election.