French far-Right French polemist Eric Zemmour’s presidential bid risks falling at the first hurdle due to an electoral clause obliging candidates to secure 500 political “endorsements” to take part, his camp has warned.
The disqualification of a potential frontrunner over an antiquated system that favours candidates from established political parties with local power bases would be a denial of democracy, say commentators and even rivals.
Mr Zemmour, 63, has shaken up the French presidential race after a dramatic entrance into front-line politics in September following a career as an essayist and TV pundit.
His diatribes against Islam and the “great replacement” of native French by foreigners briefly saw him cast as a dangerous challenger to President Emmanuel Macron in April’s two-round election even if he has flagged slightly of late in the polls.
However, before the nationalist can take part he must persuade 500 officials – from mayors to MPs – out of a pool of around 40,000 to pledge to back him.
They must come from at least 30 of the 100 or so départements, or counties. No more than ten per cent of them can come from a single département. No elected official can give his signature twice.
Mr Zemmour says he only has 337 such parrainages ahead of the March 4 deadline to gather the endorsements. It is generally thought that runners need at least 600 or 700 “pledges” as many pull out at the last minute.
By contrast, Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo has easily secured hers despite polling to win just four per cent of the vote in the first round compared to Mr Zemmour’s 12.5 per cent, according to the latest Ifop poll.
Critics argue the rub lies with the fact that the names of “endorsers” are now made public under changes brought in by former Socialist president François Hollande in 2016.
Mr Zemmour has blasted the modification as a “iniquitous democratic scandal” that has led to elected officials being “pressured” into not lending their names to a candidate due to fears of a local backlash or reprisals from their own political camp.
“It’s absolutely mad,” he said.