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 candidate for Les Républicains, 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.

“Douglas was a discreet party activist,” wrote Libération. “After paying €30 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.

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…

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