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FREJUS, France – Marine Le Pen denounced Emmanuel Macron on Sunday and sought to quell rumors that controversial TV star Eric Zemmour is stealing its thunder from the far right as she launches her third candidacy for the French presidency.
Le Pen told her far-right members of the National Rally in the seaside town of Fréjus, in southern France, that she would be the “president of French freedoms” after the COVID-19 pandemic, accusing Macron of ‘inaugurate “a society of surveillance and police”. When he imposed a pass to prove his immunity to visit many places in France.
“The government has widened the divide between two Frances, either on purpose or by its method [of governing], as if there were not enough divisions in the country, ”she told a gathering of MPs, advisers and other party officials.
Le Pen and Macron are set to face each other in the presidential election next April, with polls currently suggesting she would lose to Macron in a runoff.
But Zemmour, a journalist who became famous on television, has become a potential new challenger for Le Pen, wooing far-right voters with the promise of an unrestricted approach to immigration and Islam. While he has yet to officially declare his candidacy, Zemmour’s presidential ambitions are an open secret in France, threatening to divide the far-right electorate, polls suggesting he would get up to 8% voices.
The expert has been convicted on several occasions for inciting hate speech and his anti-liberal rhetoric on identity politics, immigration and gender is regularly controversial. And yet, even his opponents admit that he has captured something of the current zeitgeist in France.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the rally, Le Pen called Zemmour a “third man” trend that often takes hold of the media during presidential elections.
She conceded, however, that Zemmour could hurt his prospects if he entered the race. “If his candidacy goes to the end, that could prevent me from [overtaking Macron] in the first round, ”she said.
Le Pen’s strategy of trying to give his party more mainstream appeal and conservative court voters has been called into question since the National Rally saw disappointing results in regional elections in June. But there were few signs that she would change course during Sunday’s launch.
On stage, Le Pen also officially ceded the party presidency to his right-hand man, Jordan Bardella, 26, to focus on his campaign.
Zemmour on tour
Behind the scenes, many within the National Rally confide that Zemmour’s ambitions have already upset the campaign.
“They are very nervous,” said an insider from the National Rally party. “Management talks about him all the time. Le Pen’s image is a bit lackluster and they fear his offer will take away his chances.
Next week, the television specialist is expected to launch a tour for his book “France has not said its last word”, a revealer of French politics, and has several rallies planned at conference centers in southern France. France.
“Zemmour’s campaign is starting to take off and looks more and more credible,” said a former campaign manager for the National Rally. “Even if the people around him are really a motley crew.”
“With Zemmour, the campaign will be eventful. He’s a big talker, ”added the former campaign manager. “And it is guaranteed that the political debates will be more authentic.”
His fans also appear to be more active online than Le Pen supporters.
“Without a doubt, Zemmour is winning the game,” said Véronique Reille Soult, social media analyst. “A lot of people support him and although they don’t have a lot of followers individually, they are very active.”
Reille Soult said his analysis of recent social media activity shows that there were 50 percent more posts on Zemmour than on Le Pen in the past month. And while the posts don’t necessarily show support, they do show interest.
Pushing back Zemmour is a difficult task for Le Pen, who does not want to upset voters who share his ideas. In a recent interview with Le Figaro, Le Pen said she had no “opponents among those who believe in France”.
But some close to Le Pen also see a potential advantage in having Zemmour in the race, especially if he is knocked out in the first round and his supporters have to decide between Le Pen and Macron.
“There is no reason that this cannot be an advantage for Marine Le Pen,” said the former campaign manager. “It creates a reserve of voices for her. Zemmour attracts people who care [the future] of French civilization and Marine Le Pen is not strong on this issue.
The path to the Elysee Palace is also difficult for candidates who do not have the support of a party behind them. Building a campaign team from scratch and fundraising on their own could ultimately force Zemmour to step down at the last minute, according to insiders.
Speaking on the France 2 television channel on Saturday, Zemmour said he believed “Marine Le Pen would never win, and everyone at the National Rally knows that”.
“I think the French see it, and she knows it, and today a vote for Marine Le Pen is a vote for Macron. Because that’s what he hopes for – face him again [in the election] and beat her, ”he said.