The specter of divisions returns to haunt the right and threatens the authority of Eric Ciotti

“I want a firm right, which will restore order.” On the evening of his election as head of the Republicans, December 11, 2022, Eric Ciotti promised to embody a “right of authority” to straighten out the country. Nearly a year later, boss LR is struggling to maintain order… in his own family.

Latest episode to date: the government’s immigration bill. The text, largely revised and then voted on in the Senate by the majority of the right and the center last week, arrives next Monday in committee of the National Assembly. But the LR deputies are not exactly on the same line as their senator friends. And the LR deputies do not even agree among themselves. Enough to give Eric Ciotti a hell of a headache, who fears seeing the specter of divisions come back to haunt the right.

“The Senate version does not suit me”

As in any good horror film, the beginning of the plot seemed ideal. After the chaotic retirement ordeal, the right found itself on a subject of consensus, brought on a platter by the executive: immigration. Eric Ciotti, Olivier Marleix and Bruno Retailleau, LR presidents in the Assembly and the Senate, made a common platform to reveal their expectations in migration matters. The key: two legislative proposals, including a constitutional revision, to help reduce flows. “We put our proposals on the table, it’s up to the government,” MP Pierre-Henri Dumont told us immediately. But it is the government text that the debates recently focused on in the Senate, highlighting internal divisions.

“It is no longer Mr. Darmanin’s text, it is our text. We have never been so firm,” welcomed Bruno Retailleau on Public Senate after the adoption last Tuesday, welcoming the tightening of measures on AME, family reunification or residence offenses. An observation not really shared by colleagues at the Palais Bourbon. In their sights, article 3, aimed at regularizing immigrants in economic sectors in tension. Pushed by their centrist allies, LR senators changed it so that workers could obtain a one-year residence permit “exceptionally” by prefectural decision, and not automatically, as the government version provided for. .

“I was opposed to Article 3, and the Senate’s toughened version does not suit me either, because it opens the door to a path to regularization,” breathes MP Eric Pauget, member of the Laws Committee. “Let’s be clear: tinkering with Article 3 does not make the text acceptable,” also castigated Pierre-Henri Dumont on (ex-Twitter), triggering anger many senators.

The left wing of the majority to the aid of the LR?

Eric Ciotti, who said he himself was “embarrassed” by this new article, must therefore deal with these differences between the two chambers, but also with those of his troops within the Assembly itself. One party would be inclined to vote for a tougher text, another would prefer to go to war. “I will not vote for a softened text. For me, it’s modification of the Constitution or nothing. If the government is not up to the task, if the law is lax, then we will have to go as far as the motion of censure and overthrow the government,” says MP Aurélien Pradié.

Enough to make the position of the right incomprehensible, on a subject that is highly anticipated by its electorate and by a majority of French people. “They never agree on anything, it’s still a hassle! », sighs a majority deputy, close to Gérald Darmanin. It is also a new test of authority for Eric Ciotti, who is still struggling to bring his troops into line.

“We will have to decide on a completely unraveled version”

But the retirement nightmare could well be avoided, thanks to an… unexpected ally. “There’s no point in arguing now. We will have to decide on a version of the text completely unraveled in committee by the left wing of the presidential majority,” insists Eric Pauget, convinced that the Macronists will return to the initial text. “Let’s not create divisions that don’t exist. Everyone will agree to reject a text that would be watered down,” adds an elected official close to Bruno Retailleau.

December 7 should also allow the whole family to come together. As part of their parliamentary niche, LR deputies will propose their constitutional reform allowing France to deviate from international law on migration issues. “On this point, deputies and senators agree,” says MP Anne-Laure Blin. We will see what state of mind the government is in.” In the event of failure, the right will prove formidable when examining the government text. It will be four short days later, in public session.

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