(Bloomberg) -- A far-right television pundit is consolidating his position as a contender for France’s election next year, potentially complicating life for front-runners like President Emmanuel Macron.
Eric Zemmour, who has yet to officially declare his candidacy, would obtain 11% of votes in the first round of the April ballot, according to a weekly Harris Interactive-Challenges survey. The previous survey saw Zemmour with 10%, up from 7% the week before.
Support for the nationalist Marine Le Pen dropped slightly in the first round to 18% from 19% seven days earlier, according to the Harris poll. Macron maintained his lead at 23%.
It’s bad news for Le Pen because it’s more proof that Zemmour could divide her support base. But the risk for Macron is that someone more mainstream and moderate gets into the run off, making him vulnerable.
Speculation about whether Zemmour, 63, will enter the crowded race to unseat Macron has swirled for months. He was recently asked to step down from the television show he co-hosted on CNews, after the French watchdog said his air time should be subject to campaign limits because he’s mulling a run. He says he will decide within a month.
Zemmour has been convicted three times for hate speech and inciting racial violence. His background -- he’s Jewish and of Algerian descent -- make his anti-semitic stance and attacks on immigrants all the more problematic.
Read more: Billionaire Behind ‘French Fox News’ Could Torment Macron
Zemmour’s media visibility has increased dramatically over his latest book, “France Hasn’t Finished Speaking Yet,” in which he rehashes the anti-Islam views he’s known for -- he says Muslims seek to colonize France in the name of Allah and describes a Paris suburb with a large immigrant population as a “foreign enclave.”
The pundit is also developing a following among some right wing groups online. On both mainstream and fringe social networks, clips of Zemmour are often shared approvingly. In one French-language Facebook group seen by Bloomberg, recent public appearances were shared alongside posts calling for a boycott of companies that support ‘Islamic fashion’ and attacking electric vehicles.And it’s not just French-language spaces where Zemmour has attracted attention. On forums such as 4Chan, associated with former U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, posts arguing that Zemmour is “saving France” have been appearing for months. Translations of his comments attacking immigration and France’s Muslim population have also increasingly featured in far English-language far-right Telegram channels.
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