France's Zemmour slips in polls as troubles mount

·3-min read
Eric Zemmour's dramatic entrance into France's presidential race was seen as potentially upending assumptions about the election (AFP/JOEL SAGET)

Support has fallen for French far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour, who is widely expected to run for the presidency, according to a new poll that came amid reports of tensions in his campaign team.

The poll by the OpinionWay survey group measuring voter intentions for the first round of next year's election showed support for Zemmour down by a point compared with October, to 12 percent.

The results, published late Thursday, mirrored trends seen in two other surveys published last week by the Odoxa and Elabe groups, which also indicated that support for the ultra-nationalist had slipped.

All three show him falling behind the veteran far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, whom Zemmour briefly eclipsed in surveys during October after a media blitz.

But Zemmour tweeted later Friday that he would hold a rally in Paris in early December, which associates told AFP could be the first public meeting of an officialised campaign.

"The crossroads are here. On December 5, the next stage of the story begins at the Zenith in Paris. Come write it with me!" he wrote.

Zemmour's dramatic entrance into the presidential race was seen as potentially upending assumptions about the election, where a rematch between President Emmanuel Macron against Le Pen was widely expected in the second round vote.

The OpinionWay poll suggested Macron would top the first round if it were held today, with a score of 24-25 percent, followed by Le Pen at 19-21 percent.

Macron would beat Le Pen in a second round run-off by 56 percent to 44 percent, the poll indicated.

- 'Very fragile boat' -

Analysts say the election race remains highly unpredictable this far out, with Zemmour yet to officially declare his candidacy and the right-wing Republicans party still waiting to anoint a nominee.

Zemmour, 63, is set to make his first overseas trip this weekend as a probable presidential candidate -- to London -- but has seen a planned event cancelled by a charity because of his convictions for hate speech.

The Royal Institution, which has Prince Charles as a patron, said it would not allow its premises to be used by the anti-immigration and anti-Islam pundit.

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is of Pakistani origin, also denounced him, saying: "Nobody who wants to divide our communities, or incite hatred against people because the colour of our skin or the God they worship, is welcome in our city."

Sources inside Zemmour's campaign team have told French media of doubts about his capabilities in organising a presidential bid, which requires fundraising and the official endorsement of at least 500 elected French officials.

"It's a very fragile boat," one of his acquaintances told AFP on condition of anonymity. "There are a few people inside and a couple of young seamen, but before casting off we need to make sure that the captain knows how to sail."

The influence of Zemmour's young chief-of-staff, 28-year-old Sarah Knafo, is also causing tensions, a second source said.

The poll by OpinionWay for the media groups Les Echos, CNews and Radio Classique was conducted online on November 15 to 17 on a sample of 1,521 registered voters.

The margin of error is 1.1-2.6 percentage points.

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