The man was exulting. It had finally arrived. After years of nibbling in the political sections of the Paris press, after more than a decade of talk show on prime-time shows, after publishing best-selling books and being convicted several times for incitement to racial hatred, a grin on An ear crossed the face of Éric Zemmour (Montereuil, 63 years old) as he raised his arms in a sign of victory. Since Tuesday, the far-right polemicist is already an official candidate for the presidential elections in April 2022 and this Sunday he held a rally at the Villepinte exhibition park to launch the campaign.
The atmosphere was feverish: more than 12,500 people electrified by their candidate, a show of force after weeks of faltering in the polls. And heated. A Zemmour spokesperson reported that a man had pounced on the candidate as he was on his way to the stage and caused a wrist injury, reports the BFMTV network. There were altercations abroad, detainees, and some supporters of the polemicist attacked a small group of SOS Racismo militants.
Zemmour revealed at the rally the name of the party that will support the complicated task of reaching power, a name with medieval and Spanish resonances: Reconquête, or reconquest. He placed the dialectic between external and internal friends and enemies at the center of the message, with a special focus on journalists. He presented himself as the providential man who will save France from civil war and extinction. And he appealed to voters on the traditional right and Marine Le Pen – the undisputed leader of the far right until Zemmour burst onto the electoral arena in September and started rising in polls – to join him.
The great Zemmourian mass sets the tone for the campaign. Despite the fact that he has ceased to be among the favorites to challenge the centrist Emmanuel Macron for the presidency, he has in all polls with more than 10% of the votes – a result unimaginable before the summer, when his candidacy was a remote hypothesis – and his The almost exclusive subject, immigration, monopolizes the French political debate.
“If they hate me, they hate you. If they despise me, they despise you, ”Zemmour cried. “My adversaries want my political death. Journalists want my social death. The jihadists want my death plain and simple. “
Before the rally began, a team from the program Day-to-day, of the TMC chain, had to leave after being harassed by the Zemmourians. “Everybody hates Day-to-dayThey shouted. Later, whenever Zemmour cited journalists in his speech, the audience booed them while waving the French flags.
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The technique — us versus them — is not new. It seems plagiarized from Donald Trump, president of the United States between 2017 and January 2021. The particular thing, in the case of Zemmour, is that until a few months ago he himself belonged to the journalistic union. And it is in the newspapers – the moderate conservative Le Figaro– and on the television networks – until September he was the star of the CNews chain, owned by the Vivendi group – where he consolidated his influence and obtained a legitimacy forbidden to other far-rightists.
One notable difference from Trump and Marine Le Pen is the audience. Trump and Le Pen attract working-class voters. Zemmour’s audience was full of people who might be found at classic right-wing rallies in France or at conservative student unions: college-bound twentysomethings.
Tanguy Picard, 26, a doctoral student in chemistry from Grenoble, came to Villepinte in a suit, waistcoat and tie. “I come to see someone who can be President of the Republic. You have to set an example, ”said this reader of the candidate’s essays on France’s glorious past. “His books are books on a historian rather than a politician, and that’s what I like: a man of culture doing politics.”
One of Zemmour’s problems is elitism: he can’t resist citing a classic author, and he speaks the language of Parisian journalists and writers. It is difficult for him to connect with the popular classes, Le Pen’s nursery of votes.
The other enemies designated by Zemmour are the politicians: the left, but also Macron (“a great void, an abyss: in 2017 France chose nothing,” he said about him) and the moderate right of the Republicans, accomplices, according to his vision , from “the great substitution”, the conspiracy and racist theory according to which the population with European ancestors is being replaced by Muslim foreigners.
Zemmour told the rally that the French live in fear of “great declassification, with the impoverishment of the French, the decline of [la] power [de Francia] and the collapse of the school ”. The second fear is that of “the great replacement with the Islamization of France, mass immigration and permanent insecurity.”
“Z, Z, Z!” Shouted his followers, while he promised to stop the great substitution with its new slogan: “The reconquest is launched. The reconquest of our economy, our security, our identity, our sovereignty, our country ”. The campaign will not be easy for Zemmour and his chances of qualifying for the second round are small today. But this Sunday, the “little Berber Jew”, as he describes himself, looked happy in front of the crowd and the flags, as he raised his arms and savored a first, little victory.
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