by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 22
March 2022

Éric Zemmour can’t blame Putin for his slump

The populist candidate is now in fifth place
by Peter Franklin
Support for Éric Zemmour has fallen to 9%, according to one poll. Credit: Getty

A French opinion poll (below) out this week shows support for Éric Zemmour at its lowest point since the Right-winger declared his candidacy in November. With just 9% of the vote for the first round of the presidential election, he’s now in fifth place.

Another poll this week has him in fourth place, but a few weeks ago he was vying for second place, which would have got him through to the run-off round against Emmanuel Macron. So what happened?

The most obvious new factor is the war in Ukraine. Though Zemmour has condemned the invasion, prior to the conflict he sympathised with the Russian position and opposed the expansion of NATO. In 2018, he was quoted as saying that he “dreams of a French Putin”. And while that’s not exactly what he said (most of the words were in a question to which he agreed), it’s still embarrassing. 

If the Putin factor is to blame for Zemmour’s declining support, then one has to ask why the same hasn’t happened to rival Right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen. She too has been embarrassed by her alleged closeness to Putin. Not least because there’s the photograph of her shaking hands with the Russian President, which still features on her campaign material. Yet while Zemmour’s position deteriorates, Le Pen is now firmly in second place.

What explains their diverging fortunes? It’s possible that Zemmour’s voters are more sensitive to events in Ukraine than Le Pen’s. The alternative explanation is that Ukraine has got very little to do with it — and that populist voters are simply gravitating towards the candidate with the best chance against Macron. 

The Putin theory would be strengthened if there was evidence of an anti-populist backlash elsewhere in Europe. But, looking at recent polls, there’s not much to be found. 

In Italy, support for Matteo Salvini’s League party continues to slip. However, this is consistent with the long-term trend, which also has support rising for the Brothers of Italy, the other Right-wing populist party. 

In the Netherlands, support for Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party is sharply down on last year’s general election result, but that is consistent with the greatly enhanced position of JA21, a rival Right-wing party which split from the FvD. As in Italy, this shift in support between populists was already in evidence before the invasion. 

In Poland, the latest poll shows a dip in support for the ruling party, but one can hardly accuse Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his supporters of being pro-Putin. Fiercely hostile to Russian expansionism, the Polish government has been at the forefront of NATO and EU support for Ukraine. 

In short, it looks rather like Éric Zemmour’s faltering campaign is more about Éric Zemmour than Vladimir Putin.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
4 months ago

One has to ask why rolling out the red carpet for Putin repeatedly over the past few years, advocating a closer relationship with Russia and hanging on the telephone with him for hours now to no apparent avail hasn’t dented Macron’s campaign.

Last edited 4 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
4 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Because liberal/lefties simply do not learn.

David Simpson
David Simpson
4 months ago

Frustratingly, you don’t actually explain what it is that zemmour has actually said / not said, done / not done to lose so much support so quickly. You suggest voters think marine le pen has a better chance, but she’s always failed in the run off, so why should they think she stands any better a chance this time? Could it be that the poll is off? A sample size of 1,600 is pretty small. And of course there’s always “shy voter syndrome”.

János Klein
János Klein
4 months ago

Sorry my friend, if you saw Zemmour’s incredibly successful rally at the Trocadero yesterday afternoon, you wouldn’t be writing him off so glibly.
Opinion polls are not so credible because Zemmour is the only serious contender on the Right who has managed to unite voters from every age and background.