France’s new right-wing presidential nominee surges in polls

A new poll places Valérie Pécresse, presidential candidate for The Republicans, beating Emmanuel Macron in next year's presidential election.

A new poll predicts a win for The Republicans' presidential candidate, Valérie Pécresse, in the 2022 French presidential election.
A new poll predicts a win for The Republicans' presidential candidate, Valérie Pécresse, in the 2022 French presidential election. (Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP)

The new presidential nominee of France’s right-wing Republican party Valerie Pecresse has surged in the polls, two surveys showed on Tuesday, with one indicating President Emmanuel Macron losing for the first time.

Pecresse, who is bidding to be France’s first woman president, started the nominating process as a rank outsider but was picked by party members on Saturday after performing strongly in four televised debates.

While Pecresse would trail Macron in April’s first round by 20 percent to his 23 percent, she would win a second run-off by 52 points to 48, the Elabe group survey published on Tuesday evening indicated.

The poll marks the first time Macron, 43, has been shown losing since campaigning started in earnest. It also underlines the threat Pecresse poses to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who was previously seen as Macron’s closest rival.

A second poll on Tuesday by the Ifop-Fiducial group showed support for Pecresse also shooting up in the first round, though at a lower 17 percent, and trailing Macron in the second round by 48 percent to 52 percent.

Analysts stress that the French election remains highly unpredictable, with voter sentiment shifting rapidly as new candidates enter the race.

Far-right TV pundit and author Eric Zemmour made a dramatic entrance into French politics in September, even eclipsing Le Pen in some polls, but his momentum has been fading, surveys show.

Macron is yet to officially declare his candidacy, but is expected to run for a second term vaunting his record on job creation and pro-business reforms, as well as his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pecresse, 54, is the head of the Paris region and has described herself as a mix of Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher.

“The Republican right-wing is back,” she said on Saturday, setting her sights on winning the presidency for the Republicans for the first time since Nicolas Sarkozy lost his bid for re-election in 2007.

Elabe’s online survey polled 1,474 people aged over 18 on Monday and Tuesday, and has a margin of error of 1.2-3.1 percentage points. It was commissioned by the BFM TV channel and L’Express magazine.

The Ifop-Fiducial survey, conducted for Le Figaro newspaper and the LCI channel, was conducted from Saturday to Monday on 1,503 people. The margin for error was 1.2-2.7 points.

Member comments

  1. See how she fares nearer the time. It’s about time people realised that polls are meaningless and just fill newspaper space.

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Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted