Le Pen has unlikely advantage as extremist candidate Zemmour makes her ‘more palatable’

Voters see Le Pen as credible and experienced says expert

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Associate Professor of French Studies at Warwick University and expert on far-right politics, Dr David Lees, spoke to Express.co.uk about the upcoming French presidential election and believed Marine Le Pen may see a boost from Eric Zemmour. Ms Le Pen was strongly rejected by French voters in 2017 after she ramped up her right-wing rhetoric in response to political issues at the time, such as Brexit and immigration. Dr Lees explained she ultimately lost out because of this but her shift to be more moderate may be helped by the more extreme Mr Zemmour who may make her look more “palatable”.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Lees was quizzed on Mr Zemmour’s candidacy and whether Ms Le Pen should be worried.

Dr Lees believed it was extremely unlikely for Mr Zemmour to win and felt his campaign would split the right-wing vote meaning Emmanuel Macron would see victory.

However, Dr Lees predicted Ms Le Pen’s own support may grow because of Mr Zemmour which could affect the second round voting.

He explained: “I think he does allow Marine Le Pen to seem more credible, Zemmour is somebody where most of his policies are on the far-right particularly on immigration.

“Particularly on Islam, he’s also been controversial previously in his comments around Judaism despite formerly himself being a practising Jew.

“So somebody who is not particularly likeable, not particularly charismatic but certainly has a particular kind of [support] on that more extreme right.

“So what I think it does is allows voters to look at Le Pen and see credibility, to see experience, in a way that perhaps they haven’t been previously.”

Dr Lees added Mr Zemmour lacked any real political experience and while Mr Macron was tipped as an “outsider” for the 2017 elections, he had many years of political service under his belt.

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After months of speculation, Mr Zemmour announced his presidential candidacy in September and was level-pegging with Ms Le Pen on 16 percent in the polls, according to Politico.

The far-right commentator has little political background but has garnered a respectful following from the French middle classes who are concerned about immigration and cultural issues in the country.

However, the gap between Ms Le Pen and Mr Zemmour has widened as weeks go on as questions are raised over Mr Zemmour’s legitimacy to govern.

Ms Le Pen has toned down her right-wing rhetoric in the run-up to the 2022 election after learning her stance was not a winning formula back in 2017.

Ms Le Pen now has multiple political rivals to contend with meaning the right-wing vote will be split which Dr Lees says will allow Emmanuel Macron to sail through relatively unchallenged into the second round of voting.

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Conservative Republican candidate Valérie Pécresse is competing with Ms Le Pen in the polls as both teeter around 15-16 percent.

A poll from Harris Interactive put Mr Macron as the winner of the 2022 election with 24 percent of the first-round vote.

Ms Le Pen, Mr Zemmour and Ms Pécresse were all tied on 16 percent according to the poll.

In the runoff, Mr Macron would win 51-49 percent if he faces Ms Pécresse, 55-45 percent against Ms Le Pen, and 61-39 percent against Mr Zemmour.

Dr Lees branded Mr Zemmour as a “two-trick pony” who provided little else than criticisms on religion and migration in France.

The academic stated Ms Le Pen has learnt from her past defeats and now offers a much more substantive manifesto on the economy and other domestic issues which voters can get behind.

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