Candidate for his succession in the 5th constituency of Ain, which was largely won over to him, the new Minister of Solidarity Damien Abad is playing a tight game in the legislative elections, between divisions within his former political family and accusations of sexual violence.

It is 5:00 p.m. Wednesday when the deputy gets out of a small car to participate in the inauguration of “The breath clinic”, in Hauteville, a pretty corner of the green plateau.

He was the last elected official, we can cut the ribbon. A kiss here, a smile there: “Damien” is in his element. In the second round of the 2017 legislative elections, he won 64.5% of the vote in this canton under the Les Républicains label, against 34.5% for the candidate LREM.

The first disabled person to sit in the National Assembly, patron of LR deputies, this 42-year-old man left his political family two days before his appointment to the government of Elisabeth Borne and presents himself without a label.

“Mr. Minister, it gives me great pleasure to call you that for the first time!”, Launches him without resentment the president LR of the Departmental Council Jean Deguerry in his speech.

His turn come, Damien Abad recalls, duty of electoral reserve obliges, that he will only speak as former president of the departmental council (2015-2017). He welcomes this “concrete example” of health equipment “in rural and mountain areas”.

“For me, he didn’t go to another family, but made the choice to serve the general interest. I don’t have my finger on the seam of the pants, I know how to recognize the value of the man, far from the game of political labels”, confides Mr. Deguerry to AFP, on the sidelines of the inauguration.

“All elected officials and activists support me, because they know very well that I am a man of conviction and that my commitment has always been total, faithful and loyal. We must be able to go beyond partisan labels”, abounds in turn Mr. Abad in an interview with AFP.

And to ensure that he is leading “a serene campaign”, despite his change of course and despite the accusations of sexual violence that have targeted him since the publication of two prosecution testimonies in Médiapart.

In Cerdon, a wine-growing village located 24 km away, Julien Martinez doubts it. At 34, this trainer for sale close to Xavier Bertrand was appointed by LR after “the reversal of the jacket” by Mr. Abad. “How can you go from first opponent to minister of Emmanuel Macron in one day?” Criticizes this opposition municipal councilor in Oyonnax, who came to tow and talk about agricultural issues.

He says he “doesn’t need to put a coin in the machine” for “people to talk to him” about this “turnaround”. If he refuses to comment on the accusations of sexual violence – “justice will decide” – he nevertheless notices that they come “to pollute the countryside”.

At his side, the winemaker Marc Dubreuil, who voted Abad in 2017, agrees: “you can’t turn your jacket around like that, just for a position…”. What Alexandre Nanchi, LR candidate in the 2nd constituency and departmental secretary of the party sums up as follows: “we fought together and I regret this personal choice. It’s not easy to scrap against a former fellow traveler, but we don’t choose his political adversaries.

On the left, we also denounce this “turnaround”, and “this way of wanting even more power”, as the deputy Nupes Pascal Baudet puts it. But there too, there is no question “of making the accusations a campaign argument, we would find that very unhealthy”.

The same restraint dominates in the small communal hall of Evosges (140 inhabitants), where Damien Abad holds a public meeting in the evening, after having taken care to say that he would not speak about “what you have read in the newspapers”. “Justice must do its job”, summarize several voters, indifferent to its political shift.

“I vote for the man,” says Hugo Spalletti, a 69-year-old retiree, in front of a campaign poster by Damien Abad, without mentioning political affiliation.

02/06/2022 17:09:18 – Hauteville-Lompnes (France) (AFP) – © 2022 AFP