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EXCLUSIVE Macron’s secret campaign team points to conservative battle ahead

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  • Macron thinks mainstream proper largest risk to win
  • Sarkozy loyalist to be de facto campaign boss – sources
  • Tricks of ‘outdated world’ of French politics again in style

PARIS, Oct 14 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron is constructing an election campaign machine stacked with former conservative insiders, as a result of he has realised he wants to win over extra centre-right voters to safe a second time period subsequent yr.

Macron, 43, has not declared his candidacy. But two sources shut to the president informed Reuters that behind closed doorways the campaign team was taking form, with one-time members of former centre-right president Nicolas Sarkozy’s occasion amongst those that will form the campaign.

The outstanding function given to ex-Sarkozy loyalists offers clues to the insurance policies they’ll run with in a campaign that may see a concentrate on immigration and id, but additionally the economic system and buying energy at a time of surging vitality costs.

The long-held perception that the April run-off could be a repeat of the duel between Macron, as soon as a minister in a Socialist authorities, and far-right chief Marine Le Pen has been upended by the rise of a far-right polemicist, Eric Zemmour.

His ascent, nevertheless, has break up the far-right vote and should current the centre proper with an open door to the second spherical — essentially the most harmful state of affairs for Macron, polls present.

In the clearest signal of the place he thinks the battle of 2022 might be fought, Macron has picked his abroad minister Sebastien Lecornu, a 35-year-old former conservative prodigy, to run the campaign, the 2 sources and a 3rd supply additionally shut to Macron mentioned – though, as in 2017, the function might be unofficial and won’t be made public.

Lecornu entered politics canvassing for Sarkozy when he was 16. He turned mayor of a small city in Normandy when he turned 18 after which Sarkozy’s youngest authorities adviser on the age of twenty-two.

“He tasked Lecornu with the campaign,” one of many sources mentioned. “Lecornu will deny it if you ask him. Because confirming would mean the president is running.”

A supply in Lecornu’s entourage neither confirmed nor denied the function, constructing on his campaign expertise as two-time mayor, a senator and regional head, however mentioned: “He’s a real grassroot political activist. And that’s a competitive advantage: in the Macron world, there aren’t many elected officials.”

Macron himself had by no means held elected workplace earlier than changing into president.

Asked about Lecornu, Macron’s workplace mentioned: “It doesn’t mean anything, we’re not in a campaign as you know, the president is not a candidate.”

DRIFT RIGHT

The conservative tone marks a shift from the technique of Macron’s 2017 campaign when the previous funding banker ran as a political outsider who proclaimed to be neither of the left nor proper and dynamited the nation’s mainstream events.

Then, it will definitely emerged his campaign had been managed by a bit identified Socialist occasion determine, Jean-Marie Girier, who has had a low profile since.

During a presidency dogged by waves of social unrest over his pro-business financial reform package deal and militant assaults, Macron’s policymaking has drifted to the proper.

“It’s clear the centre of gravity of the campaign will be on the right,” a authorities supply mentioned.

The rise of the conservatives in Macron’s camp is inflicting unease amongst a number of the left-leaning team who helped propel him to the presidency in 2017, broadly dubbed the “Macron Boys” by the media as they have been largely males of their 20s and 30s.

One of the three sources, with a background from the political left, mentioned he had been informed Lecornu would run the campaign. “I’m not a fan (of Lecornu). But like in 2017, the real campaign manager will be Macron himself.”

Macron will nonetheless search to keep centrist appearances by giving outstanding public roles to two rising stars from left-wing backgrounds, Clément Beaune, his Europe minister, and Gabriel Attal, his authorities spokesman, two of the sources mentioned.

NUMBER ONE TARGET

Opinion polls present the challenger who would give Macron the toughest combat in a second-round run-off vote could be Xavier Bertrand. One survey this month projected a razor-thin 51%-49% win in Macron’s favour.

Presidential strategists say he’ll defend his floor on immigration, nationwide id and safety, conventional electoral turf of the political proper and that Macron’s greatest prospect for poaching extra centre-right voters lies within the economic system.

One of the sources who recognized Lecornu as campaign chief mentioned they anticipated Le Pen and Zemmour to pull the centre-right additional to the fringes on immigration and id, alienating conservative voters extra involved by financial issues.

“We want to win the economic right, which is already two-thirds ours. Our number one target is the remaining third,” the supply mentioned.

Even earlier than Macron crafts an in depth manifesto, one other conservative renegade has been the architect of Macron’s backroom offers to undermine his outdated political household.

Thierry Solere engineered a harmful row inside the centre-right Les Republicains occasion when he brokered a take care of the occasion’s candidate and Macron’s centrist occasion throughout regional elections in Provence this summer season, one of many sources mentioned.

Amid the fallout, he then wooed the influential centre-right mayors of Nice and Toulon, who, after negotiations, endorsed Macron for the 2022 race to the detriment of their occasion’s personal eventual candidate.

Solere’s actions reveal a perception that 5 years after sweeping to energy by promising to put off the “old world” of French politics, Macron’s prospects of a second mandate cling on the age-old ploy of encroaching in your rival’s territory somewhat than a wholesale redrawing of the political panorama.

“We can’t play the ‘change’ card this time round. He’s an incumbent. We need to go back to some of the tricks of the old world,” one of many sources mentioned.

Writing by Michel Rose;
Editing by Alison Williams

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