Eric Ciotti: Hardliner - and ‘traitor’ - of French conservative right

We look at five facts about the politician who has thrown the Les Républicans party into an existential crisis

Mr Ciotti’s decision to support far-right Rassemblement national sent shockwave

Eric Ciotti has become the most debated subject of the legislative election news cycle after he called for an alliance between his traditional conservative party and the far-right Rassemblement national.

The president of Les Républicains (LR) party sent shockwaves when he broke a longstanding red line drawn by French presidents and party leaders - from Jacques Chirac to Nicolas Sarkozy and François Fillon - who had always refused any such alliance.

LR members were quick to reference his decisions to several World War Two moments of French collaborationism with Nazi Germany, particularly as the party prides itself with being the heritage of de Gaulle’s party and his ideas.Mr Ciotti said he is backed by LR MPs and voters and claims around 70 to 80 LR legislative candidates will be supported by the RN although they will keep the LR affiliation.

More than half (53%) of people who voted for François-Xavier Bellamy, the candidate who represented LR at the European elections, said they were in favour of voting for RN at the legislatures, according to a survey*.

LR members reacted by excluding him from the party in a decision Mr Ciotti calls unlawful.

He barricaded himself at the party’s headquarters in Paris on June 12.

Read more: French right throws out leader over his alliance offer to far-right

Here are five background facts about Mr Ciotti, the ‘traitor’ of the conservative right according to Ile-de-France president Valérie Pécresse and Labour minister Catherine Vautrin.

Hard right

Mr Ciotti represents LR’s hardline branch, the ’droite dure’ (hard right) line.

He stands for the ‘priorité nationale’, a concept that pertains to prioritising social aid to French nationals - a word rebranding of the far-right’s ‘préférence nationale’ (national preference) put forward in 1985.

In a nutshell, Mr Ciotti wants to end jus soli - the right to French nationality by being born in France rather than restricted to blood - and ban the wearing of the Muslim veil in public spaces, by minors and for school caretakers. He voted against same-sex marriages and assisted reproductive technology.

He also called for the return of compulsory military service in 2015 and drafted an amendment in 2019 that sought to make it obligatory for all French classrooms to have a French flag.

Mr Ciotti’s positions have been closely aligning to the propositions of the RN over the years to the point where it has become hard to dissociate his from theirs. He called twice to cast a vote for Mr Macron at the second round of the presidential elections in 2017 and 2022, against Rassemblement National’s Marine Le Pen, but said he would vote for far-right Eric Zemmour’s Reconquête! over Mr Macron in a face-off.

‘The dumbest right in the world’

Mr Ciotti’s decision to align with the far-right breaks a longstanding tradition to refuse any alliance with the far-right and has revived one of French politics most famous quotes.

In 1957, Guy Mollet, the socialist leader under the IVth Republic, famously referred to the French right as “la plus bête du monde” (the dumbest right in the world).Mr Mollet denounced the fact that there were no working-class people or entrepreneurs in the party but rather representatives of both, calling it ‘one of the major dramas of current French politics’.

The expression has regularly been employed over the course of French political history.

Since yesterday (June 12), several political commentators of media owned by Vincent Bolloré, the 71-year-old French business mogul who owns the far-right TV channel CNews, newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche and radio channel Europe 1, have referenced the quote. 

Read more: Right-wing TV news channel CNews becomes most popular in France

They have used it to denounce the blindness and hypocrisy of several LR members who opposed Mr Ciotti’s action.

MP representing Alpes-Maritimes

Mr Ciotti has been an MP representing the first district of the Alpes-Maritimes region since 2007 and was re-elected three times. He has ruled over Nice, one of France’s biggest cities and a bastion of the hard and far-right.

He has been in a feud with Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, a member of Les Républicains and a former minister who announced he was running for a fourth term in 2026. The Nice mayor job and the Ministry of Interior are rumoured to be Mr Ciotti’s dream roles.

He has repeatedly challenged Mr Estrosi’s record at the head of Nice, pointing at the city’s “rampant insecurity”, “taxes rise” and “budget drift”. 

He also suggested that Mr Estrosi was to be held accountable for the Nice terrorist attack in 2016 as he was in charge of the city’s security at the time.

‘Mister Security’

Security, precisely, has been his major issue, earning him the nickname of ‘Mister Security’ within LR.Last May, Mr Ciotti delivered a letter to Mr Macron containing 25 propositions to toughen up on security issues and bring back the state’s authority to avoid France from going “down the drain”, he said.

Some of the propositions included the lowering of the penal majority from 18 to 16, raising the fine for drug consumption to €1,000 and creating a police force dedicated to tackling drug traffic.

Son of Italian father

Mr Ciotti was born in Nice on September 28, 1965 to a French mother and an Italian father, Bernard Ciotti, who ran a knick-knack shop.They come from Saint-Martin-Vésubie (Alpes-Maritimes), a village in the mountains and along the Italian border. His father has ancestors from the Italian town of Trevise.

*Survey carried out by Elabe for BFMTV and La Tribune newspaper between June 11 and 12, 2024 on 1,502 people aged 18 and above to which 1,422 had registered on electoral lists.