A prominent French far-right figure has urged presidential candidates Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour to bridge their divisions or risk becoming “the most suicidal right in the world”.
Robert Ménard, mayor of Béziers and supporter of Marine Le Pen in the presidential election described the leader of the National Rally (RN) party and former editorialist and political upstart Zemmour as “stupid” on Europe 1 radio on Thursday.
“Today if the polls are to be believed our right has the majority in the broader right-wing and represents a third of the electorate, but we are doomed to lose the elections because of their egos, their stables, their parties,” he added.
According to an IFOP poll released on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron, who has yet to officialise his candidacy for the April ballot, would come out on top of the first round with 27% of the vote.
Valérie Pécresse of the mainstream right-wing party Les Republicains (LR) and Le Pen would each secure 16.5% of the vote while Zemmour is projected to claim 13.5% of ballots.
Ménard said he told the two candidates his concerns during dinners last week.
“I told them, you are mad as hell, you risk finding yourselves in a situation where neither of them will be in the second round and it will be Mrs Pécresse”, he added.
As rumours swirled of a possible candidacy for Zemmour in the autumn, Le Pen had urged the TV pundit to rally her cause instead with some in her party warning that he would split the far-right vote and prevent their candidate from reaching the second round.
But Zemmour launched his bid in late November through a new “Reconquête!” movement and quickly established himself as a serious contender.
According to the Political Barometre from the INSEAD business school, Zemmour was the most searched-for candidate on Google in December, accounting for nearly 39% of all searches, ahead of Macron’s 29.2%. Le Pen came in fifth behind Pécresse and former-protégé-turned-rival Florian Philippot.
INSEAD Associate Professor of Marketing David Dubois, who leads the data project, flagged however that Zemmour is “far ahead on Youtube searches, which could make a difference among young voters in the end.”
“The launch of his own search engine (www.zemmourpourtous.fr) greatly contributed to maintaining a high level of searches (spike in searches after it was launched on Dec 16). Overall the data shows his “digital-first” campaign is effective at generating searches above and beyond other candidates (one can draw a parallel with Trump’s strategy in the US to get to the white house.),” the statement from INSEAD also highlighted.
Ménard added on Thursday that the answers Le Pen provides “are those that France needs” and urged both candidates to stop hurling “barbs” at each other.
Le Pen said on Wednesday that Zemmour acted as a “stepping stone” for Pécresse to which he retorted her campaign was a “routine candidacy”.
According to the IFOP poll, both Pécresse and Le Pen will lose in a run-off against Macron and by a larger margin the far-right candidate.