When Valérie Pécresse crossed rural France this summer time, visiting farms and villages to flee what she known as her grotesquely unfair picture as a “blond bourgeoise” from Versailles, she promised to smash the French Republic’s glass ceiling. “I’ll be the first female president of France,” she informed assembly halls to cheers.
Since Emmanuel Macron gained the presidency in 2017 as a shock outsider with no election expertise and a celebration put collectively in just a few months, French politics has thrived on novelty. Pécresse’s supporters say her standing as a girl is refreshingly new and makes her Macron’s worst nightmare.
Pécresse, 54, needs to cease Macron, the favorite, from being re-elected subsequent spring. As the first lady ever to run for president for the male-dominated, conventional rightwing celebration of Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, she is offered as new hope after a profession of greater than 20 years in frontline politics. Different female candidates are operating on the left and the far-right, however Pécresse is a first for Les Républicains.
She was chosen as presidential candidate after preventing on a staunchly rightwing ticket of “restoring France’s pleasure and defending the French”. She needs to “convey again authority” to the nation. She has promised to toughen justice and policing, crackdown on immigration and shrink the public sector. “I really feel the anger of individuals who really feel impotent in the face of violence and the rise of Islamist separatism, who really feel their values and way of life are threatened by uncontrolled immigration,” she stated in her victory speech.
Her proposals embody halving the variety of residence permits for non-EU migrants. She needs to carry a referendum to alter constitutional legislation and introduce immigration quotas. She has promised to finish the 35-hour working week, increase the retirement age to 65, minimize 200,000 public sector jobs and construct extra nuclear reactors.
Pécresse had been historically thought of on the reasonable facet of the centre-right, however in the Ile-de-France Paris area that she runs, which incorporates the high-rise suburbs round the capital, she has all the time promised a tough line on “legislation and order”. She banned “burkinis”, or full-body swimsuits, from out of doors leisure areas, and earlier than France launched same-sex marriage in 2013, throughout a tense political interval of avenue protests by conservatives, she stated she most well-liked a type of civil union as a substitute of full marriage rights. She later modified her stance and stated she would not return on same-sex marriage.
Pécresse likens herself to Margaret Thatcher for bravery and a “agency hand”, however she goals to guide extra like Angela Merkel, who she stated was good at consensus and left Germany “richer, stronger and extra united”.
Her sturdy level in opposition to Macron, her supporters say, is her expertise as a price range minister skilled in finance. Based on her former boss Sarkozy, she is “obsessiive” about the element of her dossiers, and he or she has a background on the centre-right floor that the present president has come to occupy. Regardless of his drive to enhance gender equality, Macron stays surrounded by largely male advisers and has appointed males to the highest positions in authorities. Pécresse’s group need her to make him look dated.
Her activity is hard. Her celebration has historically been the rightwing celebration of presidency, but it surely misplaced the presidency in 2012. It faces competitors from a rising far-right opposition – not solely Marine Le Pen but additionally the TV pundit Eric Zemmour. Many citizens and politicians from the celebration’s centre have jumped ship to Macron.
However Pécresse is a former senior civil servant who started her political profession as an adviser to Jacques Chirac at the Elysée and shares the nickname usually given to him of “the bulldozer”. She is thought for troublesome and epic election battles.
In her first parliamentary election in Yvelines, exterior Paris, as a younger unknown outsider, she beat a well-known navy normal. In 2015, she led the proper to victory in the historically leftwing Ile-de-France, which incorporates Paris and the surrounding space, the most populated and richest area in France.
Below Sarkozy, Pécresse held troublesome cupboard positions, together with as larger schooling minister going through down the worst avenue protests in years over an overhaul of the college system, when college students blockaded themselves inside lecture halls. “I held out 9 months in opposition to the avenue,” she stated. “I took on the most harmful reform of Sarkozy’s presidency, which nobody else wished to do.” Sarkozy later appointed her price range minister, a job by which she needed to deal with the fallout of the sovereign debt disaster.
Pécresse was born Valérie Roux in the sensible city of Neuilly-sur-Seine to the west of Paris, right into a household of Gaullist intellectuals. Her father was an economics professor, and her maternal grandfather was a number one psychiatrist who handled Chirac’s daughter for anorexia. Her grandparents on her mom’s facet have been energetic in the French Resistance and hid parachutists throughout the second world warfare.
Pécresse stated she grew up as a “social Gaullist” raised on “republican benefit”. Her father informed her girls may do in addition to males. She skipped two grades in non-public faculty, gained her baccalauréat at 16, went to France’s most prestigious enterprise faculty and was later amongst the prime college students of France’s coaching faculty for senior civil servants.
She grew to become an Elysée adviser in 1998, turning to politics partly as a result of she wished to counter the rise of the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen. She had married Jérôme Pécresse, an engineer who went on to work in enterprise, and so they have three youngsters aged 18 to 25 whom she shielded from media photographers.
She is aware of she should win again voters from the centre in addition to the far proper and is already adapting her language. In an echo of Macron’s 2017 marketing campaign, she has promised to “change the system”.