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Candidate LR often tried to understand, to be able to explain her score. She did not digest the social networks, the media which made fun of her, especially after the Zenith meeting. François BOUCHON/Le Figaro
STORY – Back to the failure of candidate LR in the first round of the presidential election, April 10, 2022.
Source: ©Valérie Pécresse, behind the scenes of a failed campaign: "I should have clashed with Nicolas Sarkozy, I blame myself"

4,78% in the presidential election. Even in the most dramatic hypotheses, no one on the right had anticipated the extent of the failure. Shouldn't 2022 be the year of victory after two consecutive defeats in 2012 and 2017, hoped elected LR, activists and voters? Nothing went as planned… Until the result.

Sunday, April 10, in this first round of the ballot, around lunchtime, the Pécresse team obtains the results of the votes from Overseas and French people living abroad. They then give the candidate around 7 to 8% of the polls. " We said it wasn't good, recalls a member of the team. For the first time, there was a little concern from Valérie Pécresse who wonders, without really believing it, if she risks making less than 5%. “At this moment, she thinks that it is still possible – if she cannot win or even qualify for the second round – to finish ahead of Eric Zemmour. Way, hopes the candidate of the Republicans, to save the honor.

A few hours later, Valérie Pécresse, her campaign team and her supporters meet at the Maison de la chimie, in Paris, right next to the National Assembly. Valérie Pécresse has set up her one-night headquarters there. She is locked up with her close guard and her make-up artist in an office on the first floor, when the parliamentarians are gathered in another room, further on. Around 18:30 p.m., the first polls out of the polls give the Republicans behind Éric Zemmour and “ around 5% "Informs patrick stefanini, the campaign manager. Very quickly, he rectifies: “You are below. " Cold shower. Valérie Pécresse remains impassive, her husband by her side turns pale. " When will we get the final results? “, he asks.

Valérie Pécresse immediately understands the cost of defeat, political and financial, that she will have to bear. " We are in deep shit “, she lets go. Upstairs, the elected officials are on their cell phones. The buffet is quickly neglected. Pécresse ends up coming to see them. And when one of the parliamentarians, thinking himself friendly, throws a " Bravo for the campaign, the candidate has trouble pretending. " No, there, with this score, we can't really say congratulations “, she retorts between sadness and bitterness.

“Strategic fault”

4,78% repeat the elected officials without believing it too much… How could LR find himself so low? After the earthquake of Sunday evening, some still believe in the possibility of a correction of the figures beyond the fateful threshold of 5%. " The results from Ile-de-France were still missing and when I went to bed I was convinced that we would be above the bar the next morning. “, remembers the treasurer of the Republicans, Daniel Fasquelle. Others, looking for sleep, will get up several times during the night to check that they are not dreaming.

However, two days before the first round, a campaign event had sounded the alarm. Some support for the LR candidate had jumped on hearing her answer to a listener's question asked on the France Inter antenna concerning the voting instructions for the second round. Even if the candidate, interviewed in duplex from Lyon, specifies that she will not give any, the mere fact of answering projects her as a loser while the burning battle of the first round should rather end with messages of mobilization. Many at LR are panicked by what they immediately perceive as a "strategic fault". " It was very curious because it didn't look like him. I was petrified, I was texting everywhere. We were all angry and flabbergasted, even the closest ones “says a relative.

A check for 2000 euros

In the car, on the way to Cairanne in the Vaucluse, the candidate recognizes an error related to fatigue. She will also regret later not having cut all ties with Nicolas Sarkozy after the confidences of the ex-president reported by Le Figaro and to have gone to see him a few hours later. Or just before his Zenith meeting. " I should have clashed with Sarkozy, I blame myself, but I blame myself! “, will confide the ex-candidate to one of his interlocutors the day after his defeat. " But I know that if I had, no one would have supported me. The others were just waiting for that to kill me. I would have turned around, there would have been no one there. They would have all said: “She sucks, she doesn’t know how to cook”It would have created negative campaign noise. “, she gets annoyed while redoing the film with support.

« I found myself in a wasp's nest, they were all playing their part “, She continues, targeting the tenors of the party, the elected candidates for the legislative elections – “ their only obsession was to be elected! – and especially those she had called her “musketeers”. With the line of sight, Xavier Bertrand and Éric Ciotti whom she accuses of having " played personally ". " I would have done better not to calculate them, to make my campaign, to trace my route “, she regrets, convinced that the story then could have been different. " But as I had returned to LR, I had to “, fulminates Valérie Pécresse seeing, in this scenario, “ the revenge of the anti-UMP who forced the moderate candidates who could beat Emmanuel Macron to return to the trap (to LR). And when we came back, we were caught in the spider's web! ».

She never saw Nicolas Sarkozy again. They never had each other by phone either. She refused the check for 2 euros he had sent her after the defeat. " I don't ask for charity “, she will squeak to her team. She gets angry : " Not a journalist has said that I had given him an autograph signed by General de Gaulle for his birthday. It's not easy to find! The only thing that Nicolas Sarkozy remembered was that Macron had offered him chocolates! »

After the announcement of the result, the candidate often tried to understand, to be able to explain her score. She did not digest the social networks, the media which made fun of her, especially after the Zenith meeting. " Ridicule is the weapon that kills. I paid to see “, she then slips to a tenor LR. With hindsight, for many elected officials, this flight of voters is also explained by Emmanuel Macron's non-campaign and the climate of the polls in the home stretch. " What buried her was the rise of Mélenchon because a large part of our electorate was afraid of a second round between the leader of LFI and Le Pen “, we judge the Republicans. " It is the useful vote that has frozen us below 5%. Even those who were not close to her considered this result brutal and unfair », Estimates the mayor of Taverny, Florence Portelli, who found herself « well alone “, to defend it, after the defeat, on TV sets. " Macron had a hell of a lot. He sacrificed everything for his re-election. The helpful vote siphoned us off, analyzes Valérie Pécresse. And people told me that I had only talked about ecology, but I always had the same questions about the sovereign and about Sarko! »

Overtake everyone

In the aftermath of the cataclysm, amazement sets in within the LR apparatus. Starting Monday, April 11, Christian Jacob brings together the strategic council in a climate of consternation. And great concern. Valérie Pécresse is late. Everyone is waiting for him. The president of the LR calls her without knowing that she wants to launch a " Pecressethon for the French to help him "before May 15". " Do you think that's a good idea? “, he asks on the phone, while many elected officials around the table are asking questions. How will the party be able to withstand the shock financially? What about the upcoming legislative elections? When the treasurer, Daniel Fasquelle, receives in his party office Valérie Pécresse, with whom he shares a sandwich, he feels very affected. " In this case, she involved the finances of her own family. She only had a month to go “, he underlines. " She really needed to take refuge with her husband and children “says a relative.

The LR party knows that it has the means to cash in on the earthquake but it quickly takes stock: 5 million euros are missing from the candidate's campaign accounts, not reimbursed by the State. Immediately, Valérie Pécresse takes everyone by storm and launches, without warning her team or any of her political supporters, an appeal in front of the headquarters of the Republicans. She asks activists for a "emergency aid"to help fund his campaign.

The party will support her by agreeing not to claim a reimbursement of 2,5 million euros from the right-wing candidate. " Valérie Pécresse said to herself that it was necessary to launch this call immediately before the cameras go out “, Specifies a support. And before the French turn the page. A few hours later, the ex-candidate will fly to Spain with her husband. To try to forget...


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