French conservative lawmaker defects to Zemmour’s presidential bid

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PARIS, Jan 9 (Reuters) – A conservative lawmaker who until last year was No. 2 in the centre-right Les Republicains party on Sunday said he was defecting to join the ranks of far-right presidential challenger Eric Zemmour.

Guillaume Peltier said he had no confidence in Les Republicains party presidential nominee Valerie Pecresse, describing her as too ideologically close to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Peltier told Europe 1 Zemmour was “the only candidate capable of galvanising the right and beating Macron” in the April presidential poll.

Zemmour, 63, who holds convictions for inciting hatred and has said he wants to save France from decadence and minorities that “oppress the majority”, has made a career of testing the limits of political correctness.

It was not immediately clear how damaging Peltier’s defection would be for Pecresse. The staunch rightwinger has done little too conceal the overlap in his political convictions with Zemmour and other far-right figures.

Peltier had backed Eric Ciotti in the centre-right party’s primary, whose own no-nonsense talk on restoring the state’s authority in socially deprived immigrant neighbourhoods and defending France’s national identity flirted with the far-right.

Pecresse defeated Ciotti in a December primary run-off but Ciotti won nearly 40% of the vote, some of which analysts said could follow Peltier into Zemmour’s camp.

Voter surveys show Zemmour polling behind Macron, Pecresse, Marine Le Pen of the traditional far-right party Rassemblement National. However the race for a place in the presidential run-off vote is tight.

Reporting by Richard Lough Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Photo – French Member of Parliament of the right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party Guillaume Peltier . EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT

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