Two Le Pen allies defect to join Zemmour's presidential bid
PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) - A senior EU lawmaker and a parliamentary assistant to another deputy have quit Marine Le Pen's National Rally to join rival far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, saying they considered Le Pen had no chance to win April's election.
Zemmour, a newcomer on the political scene, has seen his campaign lose some steam over the past weeks, after an initial, exponential rise in opinion surveys.
He currently polls fourth, behind centre-right president Emmanuel Macron, the conservatives' Valerie Pecresse and Le Pen.
Having EU lawmaker Jerome Riviere rally to him, after a conservative lawmaker did the same earlier this month, could help Zemmour bolster his candidacy and his assertion that he alone can help bring together the hard-right and more mainstream conservatives - which is the view Riviere himself takes.
"Marine Le Pen is not in a position to win. She will never be able to bring together the conservatives and the populists," Riviere told Reuters on Thursday, mentioning what he called an "unfair" safety net - or "cordon sanitaire" - many parties and voters have long set around the National Rally (RN), which often finds itself isolated.
"Eric Zemmour can do it," Riviere said. "He is the only one who can deeply change the French political landscape so that the ... ideas of right-wing voters can win."
Riviere, who is quitting his role as head of the RN's group in the European Parliament, said he expected more European Union lawmakers to defect and join Zemmour.
The RN shrugged off Riviere's move. "There will be no political impact, because Jerome Riviere had no political impact within the National Rally," Le Pen told BFM TV.
Damien Rieu, a parliamentary assistant to another RN EU lawmaker, and an active suppporter of Le Pen on social media, also quit on Thursday to join Zemmour's ranks.
He said he was initially sceptical of Zemmour's emergence on the political scene but was now convinced he had become a better champion of his ideas. "Depsite our best efforts and hopes, we were failing to mobilise voters," he said of the RN.
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