ReportIn the former stronghold of François Fillon, Les Républicains activists regret a non-existent campaign and want to believe in the victory of their candidate, despite headwinds and less than two weeks before the first round of the presidential election.
The Mamers market is slowly awakening on Place Carnot, Monday 28 March. The inhabitants of this rural town in the north of Sarthe take their time. Along the pharmacy, about fifteen people are queuing for a Covid-19 screening test.
On the pediment of the town hall, held since 2014 by Frédéric Beauchef (Les Républicains, LR), a Ukrainian flag mixes with those of France and the European Union. Installed in front of the municipal building, twelve electoral panels, still empty: no poster has been pasted there, with the exception of that of the sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.
On the market, no one speaks spontaneously of the presidential election, which is nevertheless held in less than two weeks. “People are jaded or lost, they don’t know who to vote for, we first”launches Nadège (who did not wish to give her name), the butcher of the Maison du boudin.
“It’s dead calm”, this campaign, observes Jean-Michel Etienne. This retiree is grand master of the Brotherhood of Knights of Sarthoise Rillettes, and LR activist. He knows the former prime minister and ex-mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe well, François Fillon, who comes to his mansion in Beaucé on weekends, in Solesmes, in the south of the department. He even crowned it “officer” of his brotherhood.
“Watching TV, I said to myself it’s badly crossed”
The crash of his candidacy in 2017 has long haunted the Sarthe right, but Jean-Michel ensures that it has turned the page. Like many others in this department historically anchored on the right, he thought that Valérie Pécresse, the first woman invested by LR, could save the party, relegated for ten years to the opposition. But he no longer believes in it since mid-February and the failed Zenith meeting in Paris. “Watching TV, I said to myself, it’s badly crossed”, says the pensioner. He will vote for the candidate “in principle”which is not the case for many of his friends, who will be shared between Emmanuel Macron and Eric Zemmour.
At the Bar des Halles, place Carnot, the mayor’s wife, Anne Beauchef, remembers. In 2017, she was the representative for the Sarthe of Republican Force, the microparty of François Fillon, whose campaign she piloted for the primary, when no one believed in it. “He told us: it’s like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, everything can be decided in the last minutes”evokes the regional councilor.
Five years later, at the LR congress, Anne voted Pécresse, whose ” journey “ and the “solidity”. For her too, the Zenith was a disappointment. In front of her television, the elected official wondered why the candidate had “Let yourself be dragged into a meeting format made for a man” : ” What a mistake ! » But she found the attacks that followed unfair and disproportionate. “We were so shocked by what happened with Fillon that we now take things with a step back”she philosophizes, convinced that the candidate can “create surprise” April 10.
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