How ric Zemmour is turning French politics upside down

Paris — He is the anti-immigration son of Algerian parents. He sees himself as the great defender of the Christian civilization of France, although he himself is a Jew. That Donald J. Broadcasts Trump in an anti-establishment campaign. And he is now drawing battle lines ahead of France’s presidential election in April.

The meteoric rise of Eric Zeymore, a far-right writer and TV pundit, French politics has been turned upside down.

Until a few weeks ago, most people expected France’s next presidential election to be a predictable rematch between President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen, according to polls revealed by voters who wanted a deeply dissatisfied alternative. .

Although still not a declared candidate, Mr Zemour, 63, rose to number 2 in a poll of potential voters last week, disrupting campaign strategies across the board, beyond Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen.

“The French want to upset a political system that hasn’t won them over, and Eric Zemour appears to be the bowling ball that’s about to knock down all the pins,” said Pascal Perrineau, a political scientist at the University of Science Po University specializing in elections and Rights.

Mr Perrineau warned that voters were not yet seriously focusing on elections and that elections could be volatile.

Still the candidates are not taking any chances.

Mr Macron’s campaign has focused on securing the support of the right wing and forcing a showdown with Le Pen, with the belief that the French will reject his party in a second round of voting, as they have had for decades. Is.

It is now much less clear who he will meet in a runoff: a strong performance in the first round could propel Mr Zemor into the second, or it could divide far-right voters so that the centre-right candidate could qualify. be allowed to do. decisive.

After weeks of ignoring Mr Zemour, Mr Macron is now criticizing him, although not by name, while government ministers and other Macron allies have launched a barrage of attacks.

Mr. Zémour’s rise has been most troubling for Ms. Le Pen, who is falling in the polls – so much so that her own father, the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, said he would support Mr. Zémour if The writers were in a strong position.

Ms Le Pen has for years tried to broaden her base with a so-called non-democratic strategy of ousting her nationalist, anti-immigrant party from the most extreme xenophobic positions her father was known for. Now she finds herself in the unusual position of being tilted to the right.

Mr Zemour went on to become one of France’s best-selling authors over the past decade by writing books on the nation’s collapse – he said, from the loss of traditional French and Christian values, immigration of Muslim Africans leaned on colonization unlike France. , the rise of feminism and the loss of masculinity, and the “great replacement” of white French.

As a child of Algerians who settled in metropolitan France, he has presented himself as the embodiment of France’s successful assimilation system.

He has said the failure to integrate recent generations of Muslim immigrants with new arrivals who hate France, not with a system that others say has not kept up with the times.

Mr. Zemor’s influence reached an entirely new level in the past two years, when he became the star of SeeNews, a new Fox-style news network that gave him a platform to express his views every evening.

His supporters include voters who have been most affected by the social forces that have recently rocked French society and have now joined “Voquisme” – a #MeToo movement that led to the downfall of powerful men Is; A racial awakening challenging the image of France as a colorless society; The rise of a new generation questioning the principles of the French Republic; and the perceived growing threat of an American-inspired vision of society.

“Throughout its history, France has always had a strong cultural identity, but now there is a deep concern about that identity,” said Mr. Perineau. “People feel that their culture, their way of life and their political system, everything is being changed. It’s enough.”

“Eric Zemor plays very well on that, on this nostalgia for the past, and that fear of not being a great power anymore, of dissolving in a group that we don’t understand, whether it’s Europe or globalization or culture. Americanization of,” he added.

In the 2017 election, Mr Macron was the new face who overturned the existing political system. But during his presidency, “Emmanuel Macron’s new world is beginning to look like the old world,” said Mr. Perineau, disillusioning voters.

Ms Le Pen’s close aide and a member of the European Parliament, Philippe Olivier, said French voters look for a larger-than-life man in their president.

“In the United States, the president can be a film actor like Reagan or a carnival artist like Trump,” said Mr. Olivier, who is also Ms. Le Pen’s brother-in-law. “In France, we elect the king.”

But the two-round system forces most voters to vote in a runoff against candidates—not someone of their choice.

“In the second round, the issue is who is more repulsive,” said Mr. Olivier. “I believe that Macron will be dismissed more than the Marines, but Zemor will be dismissed much more than Macron.”

As France has become more conservative in recent years, Mr Macron has rightly acted on a number of issues in an attempt to grab a larger electoral piece, especially among voters of the traditional centre-right Republican Party.

Republicans, who have yet to choose their presidential nominee, themselves now face a new threat, as Mr. Zemour draws support from him as well as from afar.

To attract far-right voters, many leaders of the traditional right have flirted with Mr. Zemor in recent years, pretending or ignoring the fact that the author has been sanctioned for inciting racial hatred.

Jean-Yves Camus, director of the Observatory of Radical Politics, said: “The traditional authority has made a grave mistake that is now bursting in their faces.” “Because it has long competed against the far right on issues such as national identity, immigration and sovereignty, it blinked at Zemour.”

Now the traditional right is looking for ways to distance itself from the TV star without alienating its supporters.

Republican Patrick Stefanini, who ran President Jacques Chirac’s successful 1995 campaign, said Mr. Zemor was benefiting from divisions within the traditional right on issues such as immigration.

“Mr. Zemour has turned immigration into a single key to understanding the difficulties facing French society,” said Mr. Stefani, who is now leading the presidential bid of Valerie Pecres, the head of the Paris region. “Republicans are having a little trouble positioning themselves because the trends are not the same within Republicans.”

Mr Stefanini attributed Mr Zemour’s rise in part to the traditional right’s failure to quickly decide on a candidate, and said he believed the TV star’s ratings would plummet.

But for now, many voters appear to be taking a look at Mr. Zemour, who is drawing huge crowds to campaign-like events across France promoting his latest book, “France Has Not Said Its Last Word Still.” Huh.

Last week, three residents of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a wealthy suburb of Paris, came together to attend an event with Mr Zemour in the capital.

François Tornberg, who said she was in her 70s, said she liked Mr. Zemor because “he gives a kick in the anthill,” she said.

“We love France but not the France of today,” said his 69-year-old friend Andrey Chalmandier.

“We are not at home,” said Ms. Chalmandier, as she goes shopping in her suburb, “I am the only French representative. Around me are four or five veiled women, who are even more arrogant “

“And yet it’s a nice neighborhood,” said Ms. Tornberg. “It’s not a working class neighborhood at all.”

Léontine Gallois contributed reporting.

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