Far-right figure Zemmour announces presidential race to “save” France

  • The far right Zemmour wants to save France from decadence
  • He is Le Pen’s challenger for the second round of the elections
  • Polls see Macron win second term

PARIS, November 30 (Reuters) – French far-right expert Eric Zemmour announced his presidential candidacy on Tuesday with a video in which, over disturbing music and images of street violence, he said he wanted to save the France of decadence and of minorities who “oppress the majority”.

A former journalist convicted of inciting racial hatred, he is the main candidate to challenge Marine Le Pen, leader of the more established far-right National Rally, for a place in the second round against President Emmanuel Macron.

Her candidacy makes the April 2022 elections a test of the stamina and limits of Europe’s far right, which has surged over the past decade but shows signs of reaching a ceiling as it pushes back the limits of acceptable speech. Read more

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“For a long time, I was happy with the role of journalist (…) but I no longer believe that a politician will have the courage to save the country from the tragic fate that awaits him”, said Zemmour, 63, in a video posted on social media. “That’s why I decided to run for president.”

Zemmour’s uncompromising criticism of Islam and immigration drew support from both Le Pen’s electoral base and the mainstream conservative right, but also alienated some voters Le Pen had long sought to reassure.

As footage showed women wearing scarves, black men on the subway, and footage of CCTV fighting, he told voters on Tuesday that watching movies, walking the streets or going to the hospital : “You feel like you’re no longer in the country where you once knew … that you are foreigners in your own country.”

“We must return power to the people, take it back from the minorities who oppress the majority,” he added.

After a meteoric rise in opinion polls in recent weeks, with several polls predicting he would beat Le Pen in the second round of the election, his popularity has plummeted.

A woman walks past posters supporting French far-right commentator Eric Zemmour, a likely candidate for the French presidential election next April, displayed on a wall in Paris, France, October 13, 2021. Photo taken October 13, 2021 2021. REUTERS / Sarah Meyssonnier / File Photo

PROVOCATIVE COMMENTS

Zemmour has led Le Pen for some time in recent weeks, and the race for second place is still neck and neck in some polls.

But at this point, most opinion polls predict that Macron and Le Pen will face off in the second round next April, which Macron would likely win in a repeat of the 2017 election.

A Harris Interactive poll released on Tuesday – of people surveyed before Zemmour confirmed his widely anticipated candidacy – showed him down three to four percentage points to around 13% in voting intentions, highlighting the impact of various incidents recent.

One was at the weekend, when he was pictured giving a protester a middle finger following a tumultuous campaign shutdown in Marseille. He also sued gossip magazine Closer after claiming he was expecting a baby with his top political adviser. Read more

Polls also show that he shocked some voters with provocative comments – whether it was saying children should not be given foreign-sounding names or saying that the French government of Philippe Pétain, which has collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, had protected the Jews. And he lost the support of some prominent supporters, according to French media.

“He imitates de Gaulle but he defends Pétain’s idea,” said Antoine Leaument, of the far-left France Insoumise party, of Zemmour’s candidacy video.

De Gaulle, the dominant figure in 20th century French history, led the nation’s resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. Zemmour’s video, in which he appeared speaking behind a huge microphone and in front of old books stacked on shelves, had allusions to De Gaulle’s wartime calls for resistance.

“Our opponent is Emmanuel Macron,” Sébastien Chenu of the Le Pen National Rally told BFM TV, trying to ignore Zemmour’s candidacy. “We don’t see him (Zemmour) bringing anything new.”

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Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Peter Graff and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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