While he may be the new darling of the French right, the maths of French politics will be the main obstacle to Eric Zemmour's bid (if it comes about) to reach the Elysée Palace next May, writes Donald Forbes.

Eric Zemmour is streaking like a meteor across France's electoral sky, amidst excited speculation that he could be France's next president even though he hasn't declared yet as a candidate. He can run but he is unlikely to reach the Elysée and 10 seconds with an abacus shows why not.

It's assumed that President Macron will stand for re-election next May against a winnowing first round field of a dozen opponents of every political hue. Only three will be serious competitors for a place against him in the second round which it is assumed Macron will reach. Macron commands a settled 24 per cent of the electorate, Zemmour has 17 per cent, Marine Le Pen 15 per cent and Xavier Bertrand 14 per cent. Everyone else is lagging in single figures, even the Greens who like to talk as if they were France's true destiny if the benighted people would only open their eyes.

Zemmour and Le Pen both belong to the populist right and draw their support from the same pool of working and lower middle class voters which would give either of them a round two ceiling of about 35 per cent. This is what Marine scored when she lost to Macron in 2017. Everyone else would vote for Macron who would be re-elected.

What the Zemmourists are missing is the 14 per cent for Bertrand who belongs to the gaullist right, now called Les Republicains (LR). His main rival for his party's nomination is Valerie Pecresse who has 12 per cent support and either of them is within reach of beating Zemmour or Le Pen for the second round spot. If that were the case, the LR candidate could go on to defeat the personally unpopular Macron since many populist voters might switch parties in his or her favour. The French might particularly like the idea of Pecresse as their first woman president.

In this scenario, both Macron, bête noire of the Gilets Jaunes, and the populist right would lose and the mainstream right, in eclipse because of its troubling record of financial scandal under Nicolas Sarkozy, would be back in power after 10 years.

Recent tradition has given new French presidents a majority and the right to construct a government of the same party in the ensuing national assembly elections. Macron benefitted from this even though his party was created on the hoof in 2017 and many of its MPs were tyros at national level.

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Macronists believed he would break with the right and left and lead France to a pragmatic centrism. It didn't happen which is why the mainstream right is making a comeback.

For the moment, Zemmour, a journalist at le Figaro and the author of tomes detailing the decline of France under the mainstream parties, is the star of the polls despite the fact that he doesn't have a party of his own. Plenty of people find appealing arguments in his dissections of France's sclerotic politics without pausing to think whether his power as an analyst makes him a fit for the executive presidency, a shortcoming which will be used against him as the campaign gains pace.

The left and the mainstream right are ecstatic that he has overtaken Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National (RN), formerly the Front National (FN) and could possibly kill it off. Marine has dropped 12 per cent since the summer, all of it to Zemmour. But the Gaullists would prefer one of their own in the Elysée.

Zemmour, who is Jewish, has struck the same chord with the French as the FN but without the former's baggage of anti-Semitism under its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen who is Marine's now deeply estranged father.

The Figaro columnist believes that all governments from the mainstream left and right have squandered French Gloire since President de Gaulle. He calls himself a Gaullist and a Bonepartist, nostalgically assuming the mantle of the two greatest Frenchmen of the last two centuries.

Liberals accuse him of belonging to the extreme right but if they are correct, so do the third of the French population who openly support what he stands for; and that does not include those who secretly agree with him but dare not speak against the élite-ordained taboos. His polemics against immigration and Islamist violence ideas have been detailed in his books The French Suicide, published in 2014, and France Has Not Said Her Last Word which appeared in September and sold 100,000 copies in its first week.

Will he run? He's teasing but his rivals are acting as if he will. Immigration and Islam will be headline issues in the election campaign not just because of Zemmour but because Macron shares his analysis. What that means is a head-on collision, from one of the co-leaders of the EU, with the long liberal consensus in favour of immigration.

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