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Old fogies and old fears : more of the same for Les Republicains

LR candidate Bellamy spoke about "the massive immigration which threatens to destabilize our country". Only 32.000 people were granted asylum in France in 2017.

There were hopes within the right wing party that the young politician heading the campaign for the European elections would bring fresh air. The more he campaigns, the less the renewal process seems under way.

François-Xavier Bellamy looks like the “ideal son-in-law”. The deputy mayor of Versailles is young – 33 years old, and good-looking. He is a respected philosopher and has been educated in the very best French schools.

Hardly anyone had heard about him until he was nominated by The Republicans (Les Républicains, LR), the second political force at the French National Assembly, as their head for the European electoral campaign.

LR has been loosing steam for a long time

Except for his young age and the fact that he is an abortion opponent, nationally, his nomination was no breaking news : LR has been loosing steam for a long time, and according to the opinion polls, it is credited with 8% to 13 % of the votes, far behind The Republic on the move, the presidential party, and the National Rally, the far-right party of Marine Le Pen. It has been reported by the press that Bellamy was even struggling to collect enough money from the banks to fund his campaign.

He has had some critics within his party for being too conservative. Still, for most of the partisans, his appointment felt like a good news : his youth, his dynamism and the fact that he is a gifted public speaker, they thought, were a chance to rejuvenate the party’s image.

“Old fogies” on the list

Unfortunately, the renewal process at The Republicans does not seem to be under way. As the political debate ahead of European elections is finally starting to gain some momentum in France, the young politician keeps using the old recipes of his elders. A few days ago, the party has unveiled the composition of its electoral list. It has been confirmed, as written in this blog a couple of weeks ago, that outgoing MEPs were granted eligible position on the list. Some of them, like Brice Hortefeux or Nadine Morano have been nicknamed as “old fogies” by the young guard of the party who wanted to get rid of them. Hortefeux and Morano have pathetic records as MEPs in terms of drafting reports and contributions to the Parliament. And they are non-existent on the French political scene too, when it comes to debating Europe. Apparently, this was not enough to disqualify “old fogies”.

Spread the fear

There is another rancid recipe François-Xavier Bellamy seems to become accustomed to: rather than discuss the essential issues, divert the debate on polarizing issues, spread fear and fake news.

He was invited by the radio France Inter the day after Emmanuel Macron’s pro-european tribune was published in 28 European newspapers. Reactions to this manifesto have been mixed . Asked about his opinion on Macron’s Tribune, Bellamy had a perfect opportunity to offer some constructive criticism and to outline his own vision of Europe. Instead, his first answer to the journalist was: “Macron doesn’t mention once the massive immigration which threatens to destabilize our country. It must come to an end.”

Again. The massive invasion argument. As a reminder 36 429 people were admitted in France in 2017 for humanitarian reasons. That’s less than 7% of the total 538 000 asylum seekers who were granted protection by EU member states the same year. François-Xavier Bellamy, could you please do your math?

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