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Marine Le Pen’s top MEP defects to Eric Zemmour’s campaign

French MEP Jérôme Rivière on Wednesday left Marine Le Pen’s National Rally to join Eric Zemmour, her far-right rival in the country’s 2022 presidential race, suggesting the identitarian firebrand is able to snatch like-minded politicians from more established parties.

Rivière, who was the head of the National Rally delegation in the European Parliament and Le Pen’s spokesman for the foreign press, slammed her campaign in an interview announcing his departure with Le Parisien. He attacked her “unambitious” platform, and said she “understood she wouldn’t be able to be president.”

Le Pen is “unable to acknowledge obvious things such as the Great Replacement,” Rivière said, citing the white nationalist theory which claims that white populations are being gradually replaced with migrants — a theory that inspired the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand.

Rivière is now a spokesman for Zemmour — who appealed his third conviction for hate speech on Monday — and a vice president for his party, Reconquête (Reconquest). He joins Guillaume Peltier, an MP and former vice president for the mainstream right-wing party Les Républicains (LR), who was poached a week earlier.

“I think that Eric Zemmour’s candidacy is the only one able to dispose of this cordon sanitaire between the conservatives, some of them who were with LR, and the national-populists, represented by the National Rally, with both unable to find each other,” Rivière said on RMC Thursday.

Zemmour’s team is actively looking for new National Rally figures to lure, POLITICO’s Playbook Paris reported, as advisers float names of potential targets to the press. Rivière was one of the easiest: One of his parliamentary assistants, Isabelle Müller, was Zemmour’s former publicist, and is now his campaign’s head of communications.

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