Infighting has once again flared within France's Les Républicains (LR) after a senior figure within the party voiced support for socialists in the country. (EPA-EFE/Teresa Suarez)


France’s Les Républicains at war as senior member backs Socialists over Le Pen


Infighting has once again flared up within France’s Les Républicains (LR) after a senior figure within the party voiced support for Socialists in the country.

Xavier Bertrand, the LR President of the Hauts-de-France regional council, announced he supported the return of a member of the French Communist Party in one of his local constituencies in the hope of enabling them to beat their National Rally (RN) opponent in the second round of France’s elections on July 7.

That provoked outrage, with the party’s embattled leader Eric Ciotti announcing on July 3 he had started the process of having Bertrand excluded from LR.

“It is a disgrace, an abomination,” Ciotti said, adding that his party could never “compromise” with La France Insoumise (LFI), which spearheads France’s Socialist electoral alliance.

Bertrand was quick to retaliate, rejecting any notion that he was compromising with the Left and attacking Ciotti as having come under the influence of the RN’s de facto leader Marine Le Pen.

“Eric Ciotti is in the RN, why is he getting involved?” he said less than an hour after Ciotti announced the exclusion proceedings.

The French politician went on to describe Ciotti as being “commanded by Marine Le Pen” who now wanted him “to try to create trouble”.

Bertrand added that he drew the line at supporting members of LFI and that he would leave his voting slip blank in a run-off between the RN and the left-wing group.

The war of words came shortly after a failed coup within LR that aimed to remove Ciotti as leader.

Sparked by his decision to enter into an electoral pact with RN, the plot involved an impromptu party vote to remove him as president due to his choice.

Ciotti rejected the vote as illegitimate, a claim that was subsequently acknowledged by the French courts, leaving him in charge of the party. but many members remain critical of the leader.

Other Republicans have added that they would rather see more Communists become members of the next French parliament than see Le Pen handed a majority.

Christian Estrosi, the LR mayor of Nice, has said that he would “vote Communist” on July 7 if it meant keeping RN out.

” They are within the republican sphere,” he said, adding that the party was less extreme than LFI.