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PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) – European Parliament member Gilbert Collard will quit Marine Le Pen’s National Rally to join rival far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, becoming the third Le Pen ally in a week to link up with Zemmour, French media reported on Saturday.

Last week, Jerome Riviere, head of Le Pen’s National Rally group in the European Parliament, and Damien Rieu, parliamentary assistant to another National Rally EU lawmaker, also quit to join Zemmour’s ranks. read more

Former TV talk show host Zemmour and Le Pen are vying for the far-right vote, hoping to beat President Emmanuel Macron in the April election.

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For several weeks last year, opinion polls indicated that Zemmour – who has been convicted several times for inciting racial hatred – had a chance of placing second in the presidential poll and facing Macron in a run-off. His campaign has since lost some steam and he now polls fourth.

National Rally (RN) officials played down Collard’s departure, saying it would not affect Le Pen’s presidential bid.

“We did not see much support from Collard to Marine’s campaign and at any rate, the polls show that she is the one who can beat Macron,” RN spokesman Philippe Ballard said on BFM television.

Opinion polls put Macron in the lead, followed by Le Pen or conservative challenger Valerie Pecresse.

BFM reported that Collard will join Zemmour at a campaign rally in Cannes later on Saturday.

“Gilert (Collard) may be there tonight, we will see,” Zemmour said on BFM.

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Reporting by Geert De Clercq

Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.