Eric Zemmour points gun at reporters during an arms fair
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The race for the Elyseé is officially on, and although two of the most popular candidates have yet to formally announce their candidacy – one of them, Eric Zemmour, is already seeing a drop in support. After a series of gaffes this weekend, the far-right political commentator, who is expected to enter the French presidential race this week, has stirred up controversy.
Mr Zemmour had his presidential campaign thrown into chaos this weekend after he was connected to serious gaffes.
The political commentator said he was suing gossip magazine Closer after it alleged his 28-year-old campaign manager, Sarah Knafo, was pregnant with his child.
The married 63-year-old has defended family values on his political platform.
The situation worsened after he was approached by a woman who stuck up her middle while in his car – in response Mr Zemmour used the same gesture.
He added his finger was designed to go “very deep” while Ms Knafo laughed at his side, according to The Times.
The popularity of the outspoken candidate is beginning to wane, according to the latest polls.
Mr Zemmour, a newspaper polemicist and TV pundit, has seen his ratings soar in recent months and weeks on the back of his anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
However, now support for this candidate appears to be faltering.
His advisors have admitted he is at a crossroads and in need of a boost if he is going to beat out the other far-right contender Marine Le Pen to the second round of the April election.
Olivier Ubéda, his press officer, said the gesture had been a gut reaction after the visit to Marseille was interrupted by far-left protesters.
Mr Ubéda said: “Éric Zemmour does not deny it. It’s instinctive. You’ll have to get used to it with him.”
The latest polls from Ifop-Fiducial, conducted from November 23 to 25, showed incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron is in the lead with 25 percent of the vote share.
His far-right rival Marine Le Pen is in second place with a 19 percent vote share, quickly followed by Eric Zemmour on 14 percent.
In the poll of 1,351 respondents, Xavier Bertrand was ranked as the fourth most popular candidate at 13 percent, followed by Jean-Luc Melenchon at 7.5 percent.
Yannick Jadot was the next most popular candidate in the poll with seven percent of the vote share, followed by Anne Hidalgo at six percent, according to the poll for Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper and Sud Radio.
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Politico’s poll aggregator tool, valid up to November 25, also showed Mr Macron in the lead with a 24 percent vote share.
Ms Le Pen was six percentage points behind at 18 percent support.
Mr Zemmour, who has been right on Ms Le Pen’s heels, has lost support in the polls in recent days – now ranking at 14 percent.
The conservative party Les Republicains will pick its candidate in a closed primary due to be held next weekend – but it is likely the fourth most popular candidate, Xavier Bertrand will be crowned the victor with 13 percent support, according to Politico.
Mr Zemmour has faced a wave of disapproval from the other presidential contenders for the gesture.
Lawmaker Bruno Questel, from President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party, tweeted that the gesture was “undignified” and called for an end to Mr Zemmour’s “bad joke” campaign.
MEP Gilbert Collard from Le Pen’s National Rally told BFMTV “the middle-finger gesture was extremely grave.”
The mishap also came after a key supporter withdrew his backing from Mr Zemmour’s campaign.
Although most polls and many political commentators have been keen to stress a sharp dip in support in recent weeks – many are quick to comment it is too soon to write him off.
Populist figures, such as Donald Trump, have proven an anti-establishment stance and strong rhetoric can in fact win you the race.
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