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.