The far-right pundit threatening to outflank Le Pen

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Marine Le Pen has said she would never treat him as an adversary, but if Eric Zemmour, a popular journalist, author and expert who has been convicted three times of inciting hate speech, throws his hat into the presidential ring as expected, he could. . prove to be the greatest threat to the reigning queen of the French far right.

Le Pen has long struggled with sympathy, so he’s been careful not to confront the popular Zemmour, who a recent Ipsos poll showed could get eight percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. if it were presented. However, behind the scenes, Le Pen and his side recognize the danger that his candidacy will dilute the far-right vote in the first round of the presidential elections next April.

So who is this man hot on Le Pen’s heels?

The 63-year-old is originally from the Parisian suburbs and the descendant of Berber Jews who moved from Algeria to France during the Franco-Algerian War in the 1950s. His father was a paramedic and his mother worked at home. He graduated from the prestigious Sciences Po University.

Twice without getting a seat at the École nationale d’administration (ENA), the elite institute that was the breeding ground for France’s political class, he landed his first newspaper job in 1986. Since then he has had an award-winning —Although deeply controversial— career as an author and journalist for print, television and radio.

He has used his major platforms to firebomb French society on issues such as Islam’s incompatibility with French secular values, immigration, and the crisis of French manhood. Some observers say it is simply reflecting the current zeitgeist; at least its huge television audience is a reminder that France has not escaped the deep political polarization of our era.

But unlike Le Pen, whose notoriously poor performance in a 2017 debate against Emmanuel Macron was nothing less than an embarrassment to her and her party, Zemmour is a seasoned television professional widely endowed with both the appearance of intellect and gift. of the word.

More radical than Le Pen

However, his opinions make Le Pen’s seem almost pleasant. He has been convicted three times of hate speech and incitement to racial violence. He has said that unaccompanied migrant children from Africa and the Middle East are all murderers, rapists and thieves, and that “all Muslims regard jihadists as good Muslims.” It promotes the racist conspiracy theory that Europeans are gradually being replaced by immigrants.

Zemmour, who describes himself as a Gaullist and Bonapartist, argues in his 2014 book “French Suicide: The 40 Years That Defeated France” that neoliberalism has put France in decline; that high divorce rates have led to sexual despair and a virility crisis among white men; and that, since the fall of Napoleon, “France is no longer a predator but a prey.” Women, he wrote, are victims of consumerism and, deep down, yearn to be dominated by men.

His speech clearly touches a nostalgic nerve among those who long for the France of yesteryear; the book was a huge success, selling over 5,000 copies a day for the first two weeks after publication and having sold a total of 500,000 copies.

Zemmour has yet to formally announce his presidency, but the signs that he intends to do so are there. On Monday he left the television program “Facing the News” after the Superior Council of Audiovisual (CSA), which monitors French television to ensure that all political currents are equally represented, found that Zemmour is more a politician than a journalist and its environment. Appearances must now be subject to the same time limitations as other candidates. This week, Zemmour will go on a national book tour “to meet the French people.”

Weak points?

While controversy has so far increased Zemmour’s popularity, there are some skeletons in an open closet that can prove problematic. In April, after a local official said online that Zemmour had forcibly kissed her, the investigative news site Mediapart published the testimonies of several women who alleged that he, too, had subjected them to unwanted sexual contacts.

Zemour has no real political experience, nor does he have the support of a party behind him, not even a cadre of well-funded backers, as Macron did when he built his fledgling party. And while he is full of criticism for the path France has taken since the 1960s, he has yet to chart a path to solve what he believes to be the nation’s problems.

None of that can be enough to prevent him from declaring his candidacy, since he believes that Le Pen has no chance of electoral success. “Marine Le Pen would never win, and everyone at the National Rally knows it,” she said on France 2 television. “I think the French see it, and she knows it, and today a vote for Marine Le Pen is a vote for Macron. . Because that’s what he hopes: to face her again [in the second round] and hit her. “