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Éric Zemmour Potentially in the Second Round of the Presidential Election by Hélène de Lauzun

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Éric Zemmour Potentially in the Second Round of the Presidential Election

For the first time since Éric Zemmour officially entered the campaign for the French presidential election, a poll published by the Institut français d’opinion publique (IFOP institute) on Friday, February 18th, credits him with a sufficiently high score to reach the second round

He is ahead of the candidate of Les Républicains, Valérie Pécresse, and the candidate of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen. The gap between the three right-wing candidates remains extremely narrow: 16.5% for Eric Zemmour, 16% for Marine Le Pen, and 15% for Valérie Pécresse, although margins of error are not included in the report, raising doubts about its reliability. The IFOP poll is the only one to put Éric Zemmour in the lead, behind Emmanuel Macron. The other polls published on the same day give the three candidates equal votes (Opinion Way, 15% for Zemmour, Pécresse, and Le Pen), or still give Marine Le Pen the lead of the trio (Marine Le Pen at 17.5%, Zemmour at 14.5%, and Pécresse at 13.5% in a BVA poll). 

Despite deep uncertainties about an electorate that is dubious about campaign promises and very volatile in its choices, it is clear that Éric Zemmour is enjoying a positive dynamic. The previous poll that gave him a potential second round slot dates back to October 2021, at a time when he had not yet officially announced his candidacy. 

The journalist’s popularity is being driven by a charismatic campaign on social networks, reinforced by excellent control over images communicated through the media and through his rallies—assemblies which have the added benefit of gathering thousands of activists throughout France. The latest one, held outdoors on Saturday, February 19th, in the evocative setting of Mont Saint-Michel, allowed his teams to communicate in symbolically effective shots that had a thrilling effect on his supporters, despite the difficulties associated with its organization: storm, wind, and rain made the attendance much more sparse than expected

The question is whether the momentum that is currently benefiting Éric Zemmour is growing at the expense of Valérie Pécresse or Marine Le Pen. The failed meeting in Paris had certainly hurt Les Républicains’ candidate, and she is losing the most supporters, many of whom are gravitating toward the Reconquête candidate. However, Marine Le Pen seems to be holding up, despite the waves of defections that have continued to plague her campaign, most notably with the departure of European Deputy Nicolas Bay. 

Zemmour, nevertheless, should benefit from the withdrawal of Florian Philippot. The former aide to Marine Le Pen had founded his own party, Les Patriotes, with a very clear sovereignist and pro-Frexit line, but he only managed to obtain one elected official’s sponsorship to support his candidacy, which led him to drop out and give up running. His potential electorate—between 1-2% of the vote—will very likely shift to Éric Zemmour. 

However, these possible evolutions remain totally dependent on the famous question of sponsorships, which poisons French political life during every presidential election. The candidates Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen have not yet obtained the 500 sponsorships from elected representatives they need to officially validate their candidacy, and the deadline for doing so—March 4, 2022—is dangerously close.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).


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