Controversial French editorialist and pundit Eric Zemmour is reportedly mulling a presidential bid, a prospect far-right leader Marine Le Pen fears could weaken her own aspiration.
Zemmour, 62, is a polarising figure who has been convicted multiple times for inciting racial hatred. He has also been accused of sexual assault.
He is currently editorialist for the conservative Le Figaro newspaper and presents a daily show on the right-wing 24h news channel, CNews. His positions on immigration and Islam, which he blames for what he describes as France's decline, often cause controversy.
But he remains a very popular figure. His "Face a l'Info" evening show regularly draws in record audiences for the time slot and his last book, "The French Suicide", was a best-seller with about 300,000 copies sold.
He is now reportedly considering leveraging his popularity to become the Elysée Palace's next resident.
'Time to take action'
"Maybe it's time to take action," he told the conservative "Livre Noir" Youtube Channel on Sunday, adding: "I'm making more and more proposals and thinking more and more about how to implement what I say."
"I'm thinking about what to do next, about the possible measures that could be taken on the basis of my diagnosis," he went on.
"For twenty years I have been announcing, prophesying, in vain for the moment, saying, this is what will happen. For a long time I thought that was enough. (...) Maybe we need to take action because forecasting, prediction, even prophecy is not enough.
"From Marine Le Pen to Emmanuel Macron, they don't understand what's going on. They all understood that security was going to be at the centre of the presidential election. Very well, but the subject is not security, security is a problem because we are experiencing a change of people and a war of civilisation on our soil," he continued.
'What is the point of this candidacy?'
His political aspirations have not been well received in Marine Le Pen's camp.
The leader of the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party is currently projected to make it through to the second round of next year's presidential election against the incumbent, President Emmanuel Macron.
The fear is that a Zemmour candidacy could split the far-right vote and see Macron face off with the candidate from the right-wing Les Republicains party.
A February poll by Ifop found that 13% of the electorate could vote for him, with 4% declaring they would "certainly" cast their ballot for him.
For Le Pen, Zemmour running would weaken "the national camp".
"I am deeply attached to democracy (...), this only raises one question for me: what is the point of this candidacy?" she told a Grand Jury RTL-Le Figaro-LCI show.
"Objectively, it is a candidacy that can help Emmanuel Macron to come out on top in the presidential election, which the polls do not give him at the moment."
"I say to him: you are an editorialist and a respected and listened-to writer. Don't weaken, even a little, the national camp to which you are attached," she went on.
She also revealed that she had reached out to him to discuss the issue.
RN spokesman Sébastien Chenu also stressed on BFMTV that although Zemmour is in "the camp of the allies", "Marine Le Pen is today the most capable of winning this election, all the polls show that she is the only one who can beat Emmanuel Macron, (...) the others do not make it to the second round!"
A March poll by Ifop found that should Marine Le Pen not run, Eric Zemmour would not make it to the second round.