French poll predicts Zemmour-Macron showdown in 2022 presidential election

A poll in France suggested on Wednesday for the first time that far-right pundit Eric Zemmour would qualify for the second round of next year's presidential election and eclipse traditional far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Placards in support to a candidacy of France's far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour in next year presidential elections in Paris.
Placards in support to a candidacy of France's far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour in next year presidential elections in Paris. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

Some 17-18 percent of voters told Harris Interactive polling they would vote for Zemmour in the first round, compared with 15-16 percent for Le Pen.

This would mean he would advance to a second-round with President Emmanuel Macron, who was credited with 24-27 percent of voter intentions in the first round, set to be held on April 10th.

The online poll of 1,310 people, carried out on October 4th and published in Challenges magazine, implied Macron would win a run-off vote against Zemmour by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

Analysts stress the election remains highly unpredictable and forecasting is rendered more difficult by France’s two-round system, which sees the two highest-placed winners in the first round proceed to the run-off.

But the poll will add momentum to Zemmour’s radical anti-immigration and anti-Islam campaign, even though he is still yet to officially declare his intention to run.

READ ALSO OPINION: Zemmour won’t worry Macron, but he should worry France

For the last four years, polls have consistently suggested Macron and Le Pen would meet in the run-off on April 24th – a repeat of the last election in 2017.

“A candidate has never been known to experience such a change in voter intentions in so short a space of time as we’ve seen with Eric Zemmour,” pollster Antoine Gautier from Harris Interactive commented on the results of the survey.

Zemmour was seen as winning only 7 percent when the group tested his popularity with voters for the first time on September 8th.

Le Pen’s low-key grassroots campaigning in September has been overshadowed by a media blitz by Zemmour that has seen him feature daily on France’s biggest TV and radio shows.

The acid-tongued media pundit, who has several convictions for racist hate speech, views France as slipping towards a civil war because of immigration and the number of Muslims in France. 

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Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.