Beleaguered French Presidential Candidate François Fillon has said that if he drops out, or is eliminated in the first round, his supporters will back Marine Le Pen for President.
Speaking as he tried to shake off accusations he employed his wife and children in “fake jobs”, the former frontrunner indicated large numbers of his voters will switch to populist Front National leader Marine Le Pen rather than centrist pro-EU Emmanuel Macron.
“If I cannot be the candidate, do you think that Emmanuel Macron will beat Marine Le Pen?” the Republican candidate asked supporters. “No, my voters will go over to Madame Le Pen”.
Ms Le Pen continues to hold a lead in polling for the first round of the presidential election, however polls still say she is likely to lose in the second round.
However, more observers are beginning to wonder whether she may pull off an upset, especially if she is up against the comparatively inexperienced socially liberal Europhile Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Fillon’s rise was helped by an increasingly power Catholic socially conservative bloc which grew out of the mass protests against gay marriage. If he is eliminated, these voters are unlikely to back Mr Macron.
“We are in a climate that looks like what happened in the United States with Marine Le Pen in the role of Donald Trump,” according to Socialist Party chair Jean-Christophe Cambadélis.
Ms Len Pen officially launched her presidential campaign last week, hitting out at globalisation, mass immigration and Islamic extremism.
“Financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation are helping each other out”, she said, adding: “Those two ideologies aim to bring France to its knees.”
Many French people are disillusioned with the European Union, especially the euro currency, which they blame for unemployment.
The country has also seen a spate of Islamist attacks in recent years, most notably the Paris attacks of November 2015, in which 130 people were killed.
If Marine Le Pen can capitalise on the anger over these issues, she may yet win.