French rightwing candidate mocked after dog joins her party

French politicians have long embraced domestic animals – from Emmanuel Macron’s rescue dog Nemo, who once peed on a fireplace during an Elysée meeting , to the far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s hobby of breeding Bengal cats.But a dog called Douglas from the south of France is causing ridicule for the rightwing presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse .The dog, which lives in Nice on the Côte d’Azur, was allegedly signed up to vote in the primary race that chose Pécresse as the Les Républicains candidate , according to an investigation by the daily newspaper Libération. The paper said it had seen confidential party membership lists for the December primary and among the 148,000 party members signed up for the vote journalists had found names of at least four deceased people and one dog.

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Douglas was a discreet party activist,” wrote Libération. “After paying 30 euros online in November, he received a membership card and the right to vote in the primary. No one saw him at meetings and he never commented on the campaign on social media. For the very good reason that Douglas is a dog.”Libération said it had contacted Douglas’s owner, who confirmed that he had signed up the animal with his own contact details “to see if it was possible”.Pécresse said she knew nothing of the dog’s alleged presence and denied any irregularities in the primary campaign, which she said had been “exemplary” and had never been challenged. She said the paper’s investigation was a “grotesque act of manipulation and destabilisation” and that any primary might have had the odd prank. In a statement, the party denied all the allegations and said it would make a legal complaint against Libération.

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But it was too late to stem the tide of dog jokes flooding social media aimed at Pécresse, particularly among the digital campaigners of her rival, the far-right TV pundit Éric Zemmour .Zemmour, who has convictions for incitement to racial hatred , is known for both his thunderous speeches about the decline of France and his humorous mocking of his opponents.His supporters seized on Douglas and soon the hashtag #Douglasgate was trending in France . One Parisian Zemmour supporter posted a video of a recent Pécresse speech in which she told party members “at last we’re all united” and superimposed footage of a pack of hunting hounds.

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Woof#douglas #wouf #ValerieDetresse— Arthur d'Hyfte (@art_dhft)
Zemmour himself tweeted that his new Reconquête party was the first to officially allow pets to join as supporters “but they aren’t allowed to vote”.

Reconquête! est le premier parti qui autorise l’inscription de vos animaux de compagnie !

NB : vous pouvez les inscrire mais ils ne pourront pas voter.#douglasgate #LesAnimauxAvecZemmour

— Eric Zemmour (@ZemmourEric)
Douglas soon had his own Twitter account.
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— Douglas (@DouglasPecresse)
Journalists at the paper Nice-Matin claimed to have hunted down the real Douglas the dog, which had been given a false name by Libération to protect his owner. The paper said that the canine was in fact a Shiba Inu living in Nice named Clovis.

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Polls this week have shown Macron is ahead in the first round vote, followed by Le Pen and Zemmour, with Pécresse slipping slightly behind them. The hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was behind Pécresse. The tworound vote takes place on 10 and 24 April.