Niece to Marine Le Pen defects to rival French far-right campaigno

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, right, holds Marion Marechal's hand as he arrives on stage during a campaign rally
Zemmour holds Marion Marechal Le Pen’s hand as he arrives on stage during a campaign rally in Toulon.

Published by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1258 EAT on Monday 7/03/2022.

Marion Marechal Le Pen, the niece of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, has officially joined forces with a rival campaign for the April 2022 presidential elections in a blow to her aunt’s bid.

Marion Marechal Le Pen, who is also the granddaughter of French far-right figurehead Jean Marie Le Pen, endorsed far-right pundit Eric Zemour at a rally in Toulon, southern France, on Sunday.

“There is a big, national movement behind your candidacy,” she told the Toulon rally.

The 32-year-old also told the Valeurs Actuelles magazine at the meeting that she shared Zemmour’s views over France facing a “battle of civilisations”.

“With regards to the term of battle of civilisations, I obviously include questions regarding migration, culture and demographics,” Marion Marechal Le Pen told Valeurs Actuelles.

President Emmanuel Macron, who last week finally made clear he was standing, is the overwhelming favourite to win a new term, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seen as bolstering his position by keeping other candidates in the shade.

Marion Marechal Le Pen’s defection and willingness to cause a family rift is a welcome boost for Zemmour, who has started to slip in the polls in recent weeks after enjoying an initial surge when he declared his candidacy.

Marine Le Pen had in January said she was personally hurt by her niece’s plan to defect, saying: “It’s brutal, it’s shocking, it’s difficult for me.”Marine Le Pen, left, meets residents of Bruay-la-Buissière during a campaign visit.

Polls currently suggest Le Pen and Zemmour are the main contenders for a runoff against Macron, with the traditional right-wing candidate Valerie Pecresse failing to ignite her campaign.

An Ipsos-Sopra-Steria poll published on Saturday showed Macron on course to win 30.5 percent in the first round, a reading that is up sharply since the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Le Pen is on 14.5 percent and Eric Zemmour 13 percent. Pecresse was put on 11.5 percent, eclipsed by far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon on 12 percent.

Marion Marechal is seen by many observers to be a future leader of the far-right nationalist camp.

Elected as the youngest member of parliament in 2012 at the age of 22, Marechal stepped back from front-line politics five years later to spend more time with her daughter and open a political sciences school focused on nationalism.

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