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Valerie Pecresse, the conservative who could become France’s first woman president

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(Last Updated On: January 12, 2022)

Fifteen years ago, Valerie Pecresse quelled a student uprising over her university reforms with the same blend of consensus-building politics and reformist mettle that she believes will now propel her to the French presidency, Reuters reported.

Chosen to run last month by rank-and-file members of the conservative Les Republicains party, voter surveys show Pecresse could beat President Emmanuel Macron in April’s election. If she succeeds, she would become France’s first woman head of state.

In an office adorned with framed cinema posters, Pecresse, 54, reeled off a list of woes facing France that speak of her social and fiscal conservatism: poor control of national borders, violent city ghettos and a growing pile of debt, read the report.

“We need to restore order, both on our streets and in our national accounts,” she told Reuters.

A minister for higher education and then the budget during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, Pecresse said last week she would bring out “the power hose” to clean up trouble neighbourhoods where the state had lost authority and lawlessness prevailed.

According to the report critical of Macron for “burning a hole in the state coffers” during the pandemic, Pecresse has promised to reform France’s generous pension system and cut a bloated public wage bill – both pledges she says Macron has failed to deliver on.

Her style, she says, is “two-thirds (Angela) Merkel and one-third (Margaret) Thatcher”.

“I am a woman who consults, decides and acts,” she said. “The one-part Thatcher is to say ‘I’m not for turning’,” referring to a phrase in a 1980 speech when the conservative British leader refused to back down on liberalising reforms.

Pecresse pointed to the cutting of hundreds of jobs at her head office to make way for more high-school staff, reduced spending and higher investment as proof she gets things done. In 2020, she won a second mandate to run the greater Paris region.

Opponents who had nicknamed her “the blond” had paid the price, she said. Asked if France was ready for a woman president, she replied: “Voters on the right have shown they’re ready, and they can be the most reticent to trust a woman.”

‘UNBENDING’

Pecresse’s party, which traces its origins to Charles de Gaulle, dominated French politics for much of the post-war era. But after Macron redrew the landscape in 2017, it has struggled to unite its centre-right and staunchly conservative factions.

According to Reuters the defection of a senior conservative lawmaker to the campaign bid of far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour on Sunday underscored the challenge she faces keeping a feuding party together.

Opinion polls show her in a close-fought race with Marine Le Pen, leader of the traditional far-right, for the second spot in the election’s run-off vote. Zemmour follows close behind. Should she make it, she would be the most dangerous opponent for Macron, the surveys suggest.

Born in an upmarket Paris suburb and educated at France’s elite ENA school for politicians and civil servants, Pecresse is a moderate in a conservative party that has lurched rightwards as the far-right fuels anti-immigrant sentiment and a desire among many voters to get tough on law and order.

Pecresse has toughened her language on immigration and identity, seeking to neutralise the threat from Le Pen and Zemmour, whose promise to “save France” from Islam has polarised France.

She says she would end the automatic right to French citizenship for people born in France and stiffen judicial sentences in places where police have lost control, read the report.

On a table in Pecresse’s office sits a photograph of Samuel Paty, the teacher decapitated by a Chechen-born teenager in a suburb of Paris in 2020 because he used caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a lesson on free speech.

Pecresse said the teacher’s portrait would follow her to the Elysee Palace if she won the election.

“We have to be unbending in the respect of our values,” Pecresse said. “In the public space, the law comes before faith. It’s the same rights, the same duties for all.”

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Saudi Arabia, US prepare for bilateral Native Fury 22 drill in Yanbu, Al-Kharj 

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2022)

Saudi and US marine corps arrived in Yanbu on Tuesday ahead of the planned bilateral Native Fury 22 drill maneuvers, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. 

The exercises are set to take place this week in Yanbu and Al-Kharj and will last for several days, according to SPA. 

The drills are aimed at enhancing the partnership between Saudi forces and their US counterparts when carrying out bilateral plans, SPA said. 

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FBI searches Trump’s Florida home as part of presidential records probe

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Former US president Donald Trump said FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday and broke into his safe in what his son acknowledged was part of an investigation into Trump’s removal of official presidential records from the White House to his Florida resort.

The unprecedented search of a former president’s home would mark a significant escalation into the records investigation, which is one of several probes Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business. 

The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the search, which Trump in a statement called a raid and said involved a “large group of FBI agents.” The FBI’s headquarters in Washington and its field office in Miami both declined comment, Reuters reported.

Eric Trump, one of the former president’s adult children, told Fox News the search concerned boxes of documents that Trump brought with him from the White House, and that his father has been cooperating with the National Archives on the matter for months.

A source familiar with the matter also confirmed to Reuters the raid appeared to be tied to Trump’s removal of classified records from the White House.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, adding: “They even broke into my safe!”

Trump was not present at the time as he was in New York on Monday, Fox News Digital reported, publishing a photo of Trump that a Fox reporter said showed him leaving Trump Tower.

Trump, who has made his club in Palm Beach his home since leaving the White House in January 2021, has generally spent summers at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because Mar-a-Lago typically closes for the summer.

A federal law called the U.S. Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

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China continues military drills around Taiwan

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

China’s military said on Monday it is continuing drills in the seas and skies around Taiwan.

The Eastern Theater Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said on social media Weibo that it will practice conducting anti-submarine attacks and sea raids, Reuters reported.

The military has carried out an unprecedented set of naval and air force drills in areas near Taiwan following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island last week.

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