The French right revolves more and more around Eric Zemmour

There are about six months to go until the French presidential elections, which will be held between 10 and 24 April 2022, and the official candidacies will only be known next March. While waiting for the current president Emmanuel Macron to confirm his re-nomination, other politicians have already said they want to present themselves or have indicated their intention. Some are in fact already in the electoral campaign: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise, Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris of the Socialist Party, Yannick Jadot who will be the candidate of the Greens, and also Marine Le Pen of the party of far right Rassemblement National. The right that refers to Les Républicans (LR), the party once led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, will instead indicate its candidate only in December.

Much of the political discussion, however, seems to be occupied or strongly influenced by Eric Zemmour, a very popular journalist and far-right host who has not yet said he wants to run, but who is doing everything. as if. And regardless of whether he then does it, Zemmour is so present on social media, on TV and on the media in general that in France, for weeks, there has been talk of “zemmourization” of the political debate.

Eric Zemmour
Eric Zemmour is the idol of the far right, of those who oppose multiculturalism, feminism or the reception of migrants.

He is 62 years old and has a long career as a journalist at the conservative newspaper behind him Le Figaro. He first became famous throughout France with his book The French Suicide, released in 2014, then with the talk show Facing the Info, which led from 2019 until a few weeks ago. Thanks to Facing the Info, Zemmour was among those responsible for the growing popularity of the television channel CNews, a kind of ultra-conservative French-style Fox News, which is playing a significant role in steering the presidential debate.

– Read also: The French “Fox News”

Zemmour is the promoter of the theory of a alleged ethnic replacement project underway in Europe to the detriment of the white and Christian population by migrants (a theory that even French far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen avoid referring to). He claims that the “collective unconscious” of the “Muslim populations” is that of “colonizing the former colonizer”, he is covertly nostalgic for colonialism, “Philosophically in favor of the death penalty”, is skeptical of the effectiveness of European democracies, is hostile to civil rights for homosexuals, he is misogynist, he hates feminism who according to him “destroyed the Western family” and seems to be obsessed with manhood.

It says, among other things, that “the Vichy government (i.e. the Nazi collaborators during the Second World War, ed) did not have the consequences of extermination and the Nazi camps ».

Eric Zemmour, Toulon, September 17, 2021 (AP Photo / Daniel Cole)

Zemmour has never been involved in party politics, and although he is still a non-candidate he participates in televised debates with candidates and in political discussions for the presidential elections. Among other things, it has gained enormous visibility on social media, on TV and in the media in general.

This too would have favored a very rapid rise in the polls in view of the elections in April (the polls must however be considered with great caution, all the French newspapers point out). In less than a month, Zemmour went from 7 to 17-18 percent, behind Emmanuel Macron and ahead of Marine Le Pen.

“Before Eric Zemmour, no ‘candidate’ has ever known such a progression in voting intentions in such a short time,” commented analyst Antoine Gautier.

Initially Zemmour was a lot underrated, both from the right of Les Républicains and from the far right of Rassemblement National, which relied too much both on having had a monopoly on the nationalist camp for forty years, and on the belief that this attempt to create a third way between the party and the right would have failed, just as the previous ones had failed. Today, one of the most worried about Zemmour’s possible candidacy is Marine Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen
The growth in Zemmour’s polls is going hand in hand with the decline of Marine Le Pen, which in recent months has always been in second place behind Macron.

Marine Le Pen is in fact in the electoral campaign with the issues that have always been dear to her electorate: immigration and security, even if according to the research institutes, these are not the issues that concern the French the most (and which are instead the power of purchasing, social protection and the environment).

The problem for Le Pen is that Eric Zemmour seems more radical than her about immigration and security. “The Front National, and then Rassemblement National, have been successful thanks to their radicalism,” he said said Gilles Ivaldi of the Cevipof research institute in Paris. But since 2017, Marine Le Pen has tried to give a more moderate and reassuring image of her party, starting a normalization strategy that would allow her to expand the electoral base and establish herself as a credible candidate.

Marine Le Pen, Frejus, September 12, 2021 (AP Photo / Daniel Cole)

Eric Zemmour, on the other hand, is the one who has entered this transformation process and who has collected the original legacy of Le Pen’s party, without any concern of having to give himself a presidential air. Indeed, according to many, if it did, it would immediately weaken the main engine of its rise.

A final reason that could explain Marine Le Pen’s collapse in the polls is also the fact that the Rassemblement National candidate is no longer a novelty on the electoral market: she is now in her third presidential campaign and is part of that same political class that would like to stigmatize.

The right
It has been said for some time that the reorganization of French political scenarios around two “non-traditional” parties, that of Le Pen and that of Macron, had different aftermath on Les Républicans (LR), the center-right party once led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Shortly before the 2019 European elections, French newspapers wrote that the aim of Les Républicans was to try to collect enough votes to be able to say: “The right is back.” It had not happened, and the LR Europeans had taken about 8 percent, far from the 21 obtained by the party when it was called UMP at the 2014 Europeans. Then LR had managed to claim a weight to the municipal and regional in 2020 and 2021 , however, relying on the outgoing elected representatives at the local level.

Today not only the right does not seem to have “returned” but, writes Release, with Macron on one side and the protagonism of another non-traditional figure like that of Zemmour on the other, the political space of LR is shrinking even more.

The polls say that part of the votes that once belonged to LR has shifted to Macron who in the last presidential elections, while declaring that he was “neither right nor left”, was perceived as a fairly progressive politician.

Now that his term is almost over, the situation has changed: Macron’s reforms and politics have shifted to the right, and on issues such as immigration and security the president has sought and continues to seek explicit support from right-wing voters. “The divided left is not considered a threat by the Elysée, and the strategy for 2022 is to consolidate on the right, on land traditionally occupied by LR”, writes Release. In favor of this strategy is also the decision of Édouard Philippe – former prime minister and mayor of Le Havre who after leaving LR has estabilished a political party called Horizons, “Horizons” – to support Macron.

To differentiate themselves from Macron, LR’s aspiring presidential candidates have radicalized their positions on issues such as immigration or the European Union, consequently approaching the positions defended, on their right, by Marine Le Pen.

This rapprochement has in turn had consequences: on the one hand, the supporters of a moderate right hostile to coexistence with the far right have distanced themselves; on the other hand, the more radicals have come close to Zemmour who has been able, for now, to attract the disappointed of both Le Pen and LR. The end result of this double movement has summary the journalist Olivier Biffaud on Slate, it is a continuous and constant impoverishment of the republican right in terms of both political project and militant reservoir or election results.

The difficulty of the right is also demonstrated by the fact that it will choose its candidate or presidential candidate with delay and that the way in which it will do so has been the subject of internal discussions for months.

Last September, the members and the members of the party finally chose not to have an open primary, but to hold a closed-door congress on December 4th, from which a name will come out. At the congress, whoever has obtained the party card by November 16 will be able to vote; and if a few weeks ago the number of members and those enrolled in Les Républicans was equal to 70 thousand, now, its managers said, it has increased to about 88 thousand.

For now they have been allowed to participate in the congress six candidates, who by 2 November will have to collect 250 signatures of elected officials in at least 30 different departments. Not necessarily all six of them will succeed, and at least one of them risks not succeeding: it is the entrepreneur Denis Payre, who has been defined by some newspapers as “the last minute guest” and whose name has not been not even included in the poll requested by the party at the IFOP research institute.

Then came Éric Ciotti, 55, deputy from the Alpes-Maritimes, Philippe Juvin, 57, doctor, mayor since 2001 of Garenne-Colombes (near Paris) and Michel Barnier, the former EU chief negotiator for Brexit.

Barnier is 70 years old, he was European Commissioner for Regional Policies and then for the Internal Market and has held important positions in several French governments. He is considered an authoritative figure within the party and with a solid political experience behind him. He has a good popularity rating among subscribers, but in the general presidential polls he would be the right-wing candidate with the fewest votes. In front of him today appear both Valérie Pécresse and Xavier Bertrand, who are however a bit the anomaly of this internal selection process.

Xavier Bertrand is 56 years old, he was Minister of Health, then of Labor, he was the spokesperson for the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy and in the last regional elections he was reconfirmed president of the Hauts-de-France region, obtaining more than double the votes of his challenger of the National Rassemblement. Bertand, who would be the national favorite center-right candidate, is actually one of the least appreciated in the party.

Xavier Bertrand, Douai, June 28, 2021 (Ludovic Marin, Pool Photo via AP)

Bertrand, in fact, is no longer a member of LR since December 2017, when that is driving of the party was elected Laurent Wauquiez, an exponent of the more conservative wing. Since, Bertrand spared no criticism of his old allies, which were very little appreciated by some of the members. He still decided to submit to their vote saying of wanting to “reunite his political family”.

Valérie Pécresse, president of Île-de-France, is the only woman who ran for the congress of LR, a party that she too had left in 2019 due to disagreements with the Wauquiez line (who later resigned). Now Pécresse has said he wants to redo the card, but his positions may not be in tune with the more radical ones of the members.

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