Defection of Le Pen ally rallies Zemmour's presidential bid

  • World
  • Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

FILE PHOTO: French far-right commentator Eric Zemmour, a candidate in the 2022 French presidential election, attends a political campaign rally in Villepinte near Paris, France, December 5, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - A senior European Union lawmaker quit Marine Le Pen's National Rally on Thursday to join the ranks of rival far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, saying he considered Le Pen had no chance to win April's election.

Zemmour, a newcomer on the political scene, has seen his campaign lose some steam over the past weeks, after an initial, exponential rise in opinion surveys.

He currently polls fourth, behind centre-right president Emmanuel Macron, the conservatives' Valerie Pecresse and Le Pen.

Having EU lawmaker Jerome Riviere rally to him, after a conservative lawmaker did the same earlier this month, could help Zemmour bolster his candidacy and his assertion that he alone can help bring together the hard-right and more mainstream conservatives - which is the view Riviere himself takes.

"Marine Le Pen is not in a position to win. She will never be able to bring together the conservatives and the populists," Riviere told Reuters, mentioning what he called an "unfair" safety net - or "cordon sanitaire" - many parties and voters have long set around the National Rally, which often finds itself isolated.

"Eric Zemmour can do it," Riviere said. "He is the only one who can deeply change the French political landscape so that the ... ideas of right-wing voters can win."

Riviere, who is quitting his role as head of the National Rally group in the European Parliament, said he expected more EU lawmakers to defect and join Zemmour.

The National Rally shrugged off Riviere's move, with Le Pen's deputy campaign director Jean-Philippe Tanguy telling Le Figaro it was quite expected.

(Writing by Ingrid Melander, Editing by William Maclean)

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