Comparing himself to a skier leading the way on a steep slope, Laurent Wauquiez smiles: “There is an expression that we like in the mountains: to trace. The president of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (AURA) has faded from national politics since his failure in the European elections in May 2019 (he was then patron of the Republicans). No more sculling between polemics and little phrases, he rushes all schuss on the region he has chaired since 2015.
If he has been speaking lip service to national media for a few weeks (which he had refrained from doing since his regional withdrawal), it is not because this great burn victim has finished his crossing of the desert. But because he wants to screen for the coronavirus between 600,000 and 1 million inhabitants of his region (which has 8 million) in mid-December, before the Christmas holidays.
“Cultivate a less abrupt image”
Like his regional counterparts, Laurent Wauquiez seized head-on the Covid-19 crisis while denouncing the inadequacies of the State. He does a lot, and likes to let people know more. During the first confinement, he had promised 9 million masks. “This time the challenge is even more complicated. But the tests, it is obvious that this is the solution ”, he proclaims, convinced that on this subject he will be followed by others.
In the meantime, the massive campaign, which will soon start, is denounced by the regional left, the mayors Grégory Doucet (Vert) in Lyon and Cédric van Stuyvandel (PS) in Villeurbanne at the head, who defend the principle after the holidays, for prevent a third wave. And during his announcement in mid-November, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, deplored “an announcement effect” without consultation. Whatever. For Laurent Wauquiez, he knows he will “make the mark”.
Would he have ended up permanently swapping his red parka for a white blouse? Not only. In August, he also presented a stimulus package of one billion euros. A second could follow. “These are times when we know why we get up in the morning,” he proclaims gravely. When, at the national level, you are just playing political games of hiding, you do not have the same usefulness. So, happy with his forced exile from Lyon, Laurent Wauquiez? “It did me a lot of good. I, who was sometimes confronted with the emptiness of national politics, needed this confrontation with reality, ”he replies, all in displayed modesty.
“He tries to cultivate a less abrupt image. It is for this reason that he avoids chairing regional assemblies, where he would be too tempted to peck, ”observes regional councilor François-Xavier Pénicaud (MoDem), who broke away from his majority in term of office. According to a latest Ifop poll for Lyon Capitale and Sud Radio, 65% of AURA residents say they are “satisfied” with its action. “He is perceived as someone who defends his territory, no one will blame him”, concedes the opponent MoDem.
“I did not leave LR, I am not made of this wood”
For the moment, Laurent Wauquiez is not deviating from his 100% regional strategy. “It’s a period of oxygenation for him,” slips an employee. At high political altitudes, the air becomes thinner. If he gets along well with LR president Christian Jacob, he has completely withdrawn from partisan life. “It is not my subject for the moment”, he assumes, recalling all the same: “Me, I did not leave LR, I am not made of this wood. »Valérie Pécresse and Xavier Bertrand will appreciate.
Even if the party’s bodies, when he was president, were changed in early November, there was no anti-Wauquiez witch hunt. Three of his relatives left the political office, a good fortnight remained there. He is not one of the elected officials who line up to request an audience on rue de Miromesnil from Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he saw for the last time in July 2019.
A future conditional on a re-election at the head of his region
Since the start of the school year, he has only been to Paris once, on September 28, for a meeting in Matignon. Before the Covid, he sometimes found LR parliamentarians from his region. “But he was mainly talking about local subjects,” says one of the participants. Rarely of national policy, never of its ambitions. The Elysee, he thought about it while shaving. But Laurent Wauquiez no longer shaves. Behind his white beard, which rounds the features of his face… and his image, he never says anything about the next presidential term. He himself would not have decided anything yet. “Nothing is closed, nothing is planned. He will not ask himself the question before the regional ones, ”confides a relative. Nor does he intend to intervene on the sensitive question of whether or not to maintain the primary: “Either he feels that he has a space, or he does not feel it. Regardless of the rules of the game… ”
Laurent Wauquiez knows that his future is anyway conditioned on a re-election at the head of his region in June. For now, he is racing well ahead in the polls, but not all his future opponents are out of the woods. He will declare himself a candidate as late as possible and will present himself as a president of a region who protects, both in terms of health and economics. The rest of the story “is not my subject for the moment”, he repeats, even if he notes that “the country needs elected officials who have courage and who question themselves” . No need to ask him who he’s thinking of when he says that.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr