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France's center-right party elects Pecresse as first female presidential candidate

France's center-right party elects Pecresse as first female presidential candidate
Valerie Pecresse will be the first female presidential candidate representing Les Republicains in France's April presidential election. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE

Dec. 4 (UPI) -- France's Les Republicains party voted head of the Paris region Valerie Pecresse as its first-ever female presidential candidate.

Pecresse, 54, defeated hardline rival Eric Ciotti by a vote of 61% to 39% to represent the party in April's election, taking aim at President Emmanuel Macron.

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"For the first time in its history, our party will have a female candidate for the presidential election," she said. "Between the outgoing president and me, there's a difference in our natures. Emmanuel Macron has one obsession, which is to please. Me, I have only one passion, which is to do."

Pecresse previously served as budget minister and higher-education minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy and is the head of the regional government in Ile-de-France, which includes Paris.

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A moderate with pro-Europe and pro-business stances, Pecresse has described herself as "two-thirds Angela Merkel and one-third Margaret Thatcher," claiming to be the candidate with the experience necessary to unseat Macron.

She has pledged to raise the retirement age to 65, increase salaries, end the 35-hour maximum working week and cut thousands of private sector jobs, while also working to "restore French pride" and defend "family values."

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Following the party line, Pecresse has also placed a focus on stemming immigration and promoting laws to increase "domestic security and combat Islamic extremism."

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Pecresse encouraged voters not to be "tempted" by far-right candidates Marine Le Pen or Eric Zemmour.

"There's no need to be extremist to be combative, no need to be insulting to be convincing," she said. "You know that the merchants of fear have never been capable when it comes to action and in our history nobody who divided us has saved us."

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